On Day 1 of the state’s budget session that began here on Thursday, the controversy over the Maharashtra government’s grand plan to build a marine memorial to Maratha king Shivaji gave plenty of ammunition to the BJP-Shiv Sena Opposition to hit out at the Congress-NCP government.
Differences of opinion bet-ween chief minister Prithviraj Chavan and his deputy, Ajit Pawar, came to the fore once again, when Chavan dismissed Pawar’s statement on Wednes-day that the state had scrapped plans for the memorial.
Chavan told the legislative assembly that the proposal for the memorial was still on, and that he was trying to get environmental clearance from the Centre — the reason cited by Pawar when he said the project had been scrapped.
The Rs 35-crore memorial was to be built 1km deep in the Malabar Hill expanse of the Arabian Sea. The memorial was planned in such a way that it could be seen from Marine Drive and could be approached through a passage or skywalk built between the site and the seashore.
It was an announcement made by the ruling Congress-NCP combine to lure voters on the eve of 2009 assembly elections that set off the controversy. Now, as the state dithers on the issue of building a grand memorial off the Mumbai coast for Maratha king Shivaji, the Opposition has grabbed the issue to corner the government.
On Day 1 of the budget session on Thursday, the BJP-Shiv Sena opposition disrupted the functioning of the House over the issue, demanding that the government not back out on its promise.
Opposition leader Eknath Khadse described the government’s move as an insult to the legislature, because, the government “had promised” both Houses the Shivaji memorial was on track. “The government should get the memorial cleared. It shouldn’t be difficult as the same government managed to get environmental clearance for Lavasa,” he said
Opposition leader in the council Vinod Tawde said that the Congress-NCP government used the proposal to garner votes in the two Assembly polls.
Replying to the Opposition’s charge in the legislative council, deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar said finding a solution was not so simple. “The issue has been going on for 10 years and one needs to understand its finer nuances.”