The action at 2am on Monday to remove Dadoji Konddev’s statue, was part of the script the NCP-controlled Pune civic body wrote a day earlier.
The Pune Municipal Corporation’s (PMC) action came as much in a hurried manner as the resolution it passed with the backing of the NCP-Congress on Thursday.
As part of the script, written after historian Pandurang Balakawade approached a local court on Sunday seeking to quash the order on the resolution, the PMC administration drew up a secret plan.
Around midnight, PMC officials quietly entered Lal Mahal in Kasba Peth and uprooted the statue with a cutter. By 2am, police blocked all roads leading to Lal Mahal as word got out.
Soon, Shiv Sena leader Neelam Gorhe along with party workers and BJP activists started gathering at Lal Mahal. But, police arrested Gorhe and her workers. High drama reigned for the next 10 minutes, as civic officials swiftly put the bronze statue into a tempo and moved it to a room at PL Deshpande garden on Sinhagadh Road. By afternoon, the BJP and Sena took out a morcha.
During the PMC’s general body meeting in the evening, BJP and Sena corporators resorted to violence.“The manner in which the statue was removed is an insult to the sentiments of the people,” said BJP corporator Vikas Mathkari.
City mayor Mohan Singh Rajpal, from the NCP, said he was unaware of the action. “Our job was to pass a resolution. The action was implemented by the administration and our party has nothing to do with it.”
On August 26, Rajpal had unilaterally announced that Konddev’s statue would be removed within 24 hours. But, he backed down after criticism.
After it was removed, Balakawade moved another application in court seeking restoration of the statue. The court will hear the case on December 30.
Sambhaji Brigade welcomed the action. “Today’s decision will undo the damage done to Shivaji’s image,” said Shantaram Kunjir, a brigade office bearer.