The Maharashtra government, a Congress-NCP combine, has been ruling the state for 10 years, but is perhaps yet to catch the pulse of its people.
It’s election time again, and the Democratic Front government thinks a Rs 350-crore mid-sea Shivaji Memorial will help attract the votes. This at a time of recession and drought.
But an HT-C fore survey found that 71 per cent of Mumbaiites believed the memorial plan to be a “waste of taxpayers’ money”.
The government, meanwhile, is doing all it can to please the Marathas, the single largest vote bloc — 32 per cent.
The Front’s problems are confounded by the rising aspirations of the Maratha community, which is seeking reservations and status as Other Backward Classes.
Many feel the construction of the Shivaji Memorial, which was promised by the government a decade back, will help assuage the sentiments of the community. Detractors, however, say it is like luring an elephant by offering him peanuts.
“Symbolism works when it is projected in a controlled manner. But if it is undertaken at the cost of neglecting the basic necessities of the populace it backfires,” said Surendra Jondhale a political analyst.
Start of a campaign
A Facebook status message put up by theatre personality Rahul DaCunha asked, “Is NO ONE furious that they are building a statue in the middle of the ocean, without asking us and with our money?”
Vishal Dadlani — one half of Bollywood’s popular music composer duo Vishal-Shekhar — realized he was.
The 36-year-old started a petition on his website, www.smallchange.in, to file a PIL against the decision.
The petition has already garnered more than 5,000 signatures and Dadlani hopes to submit it to the court by the end of next week.
“Let me make it very clear that this movement is not against any political party and definitely not against honoring the memory of Shivaji,” says Dadlani, echoing the first words of his letter to the Chief Justice of the Mumbai High Court.
Thereafter the letter states, “We feel that the proposed statue/ memorial to be built in the image of this great and able King, estimated to cost Rs. 350 crore, is an unnecessary expense for the exchequer of the government of Maharashtra.”