The much talked-about colossal memorial planned in remembrance of the late Bal Thackeray has still not found any space in Mumbai, the birthplace of the Shiv Sena.
Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray even made it a part of his 2014 state election campaign and the party’s vision document. And he did make several attempts to get one sanctioned by the previous government, with NCP chief Sharad Pawar promising to help Uddhav by forming a committee, but nothing has worked out yet.
Now, with the BJP government in the state, which the Sena may or may not join, getting a space sanctioned might be easier, considering the BJP’s soft corner for the late Sena patriarch and the brownie points they can score with such a move.
“No committee has helped in anything. The memorial is our priority and Uddhavji will be talking about it soon,” said senior Sena leader Diwakar Raote.
For now, a small garden with a plaque at one corner of Shivaji Park, from where Bal Thackeray gave his fiery speeches and was later cremated, is the make-shift memorial where his sainiks will assemble to pay their respects for the second year in a row.
The demand for a memorial gained steam in 2012, immediately after his death, when sainiks rallied day after day for over a week asking the government to give up a part of Shivaji Park, a heritage site where no construction is allowed, for the memorial. But the government did not relent and Uddhav urged sainiks to move out, with a promise that he will build a memorial that will befit Bal Thackeray’s stature. Eventually Uddhav got a small garden path approved by the Sena-governed Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).
“We tried to talk to the MMRDA, but nothing happened. Now we have two options, either the Mahalaxmi race course, which Uddhavji wants to convert into a public park, or a space near the Mayor’s bungalow at Dadar. He said it is on his list of priorities once this political turmoil with the BJP gets over. For now, the Shivaji Park garden is the main memorial where people pay their respects,” said a senior Sena leader, requesting anonymity on such a ‘sensitive issue’. The Sena had asked the MMRDA for a plot in BKC, but the development body told them there was no provision to give out land for such purposes.
Meanwhile, the Sena Thane unit has already got an over 20,000 sqm complex area set aside at Thane’s Teen Haat Naka for which a provision of Rs11 crore has been made. The Pune unit has got a Kala Dalan sanctioned at Saras Baug, an art gallery, in place to display his caricatures.
But sainiks are still keen to have a dedicated space in its leader’s memory, which they hope Uddhav will prioritise once he overcomes the political hurdles he is facing right now.