Ambedkar memorial: Thackeray postpones event after controversy over invites
Controversy erupted as Dr Ambedkar’s grandson Prakash did not receive any invitation for the event while his other grandson Anandraj got a last-minute inviteUpdated: Sep 18, 2020, 17:43 IST
The Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) coalition government in Maharashtra, comprising the Shiv Sena, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress, has postponed the foundation stone-laying ceremony of the 450-foot (ft) statue of Dr Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar after a row was sparked off over not inviting opposition party leaders and the family members of the social reformer.
Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray was to preside over the ceremony at Indu Mills in Dadar on Friday.
As per the invite accessed by HT, the dignitaries invited included deputy CM Ajit Pawar, urban development minister Eknath Shinde, tourism minister Aaditya Thackeray and other cabinet ministers of the Thackeray government.
Dr Ambedkar’s grandson Prakash did not receive any invitation for the event. While his other grandson Anandraj got a last-minute invite.
Former Maharashtra CM and a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Devendra Fadnavis and Pravin Darekar, also of the BJP, were not invited for the event.
Anandraj Ambedkar, who has raised several objections in the past over the quality of construction work of the project, has accused the state government for the alleged snub.
“I have been raising objections about the quality of the construction work. I got an invite at the last moment on Friday,” he said.
He also questioned the timing of the event because the state is facing several challenges, including the raging coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak.
Prakash took on the state government and asked whether it has the authority to decide who all should attend the event.
Darekar, the leader of opposition in the Maharashtra legislative council, accused the state government of arrogance. “It seems the MVA has become arrogant and does not take cognisance of others,” he alleged.
In a statement released on Friday afternoon, CM Thackeray said that the event would be held soon and all the leaders would be invited.
“There is no need to politicise the issue. Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) has made all preparations to revise the design of the statue following the Cabinet approval,” the statement read. “An important ceremony like this needs everyone’s participation and I have instructed MMRDA to do the needful,” he added.
In January, the Maharashtra Cabinet had given its nod to raise the height of the statue to 350 ft from 250 ft, along with a 100 ft pedestal. The total height of the structure, to be made in bronze, will be 450 ft.
The project cost has also escalated owing to delayed implementation and changes in the initial plan.
At present, the total cost of the project is at Rs 1,089.95 crore, as compared to the earlier estimate of Rs 763.05 crore.
Though the groundbreaking ceremony for the project was done by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in October 2015, the construction work is yet to gather momentum.
The project is expected to be completed by April 2022.