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Shiv Shrushti: Opposition’s ‘controversy’ card mere distraction?

Rumours of state allocating Rs.300 cr for Ambegaon Shiv Shrushti attracts opposition to the under-construction project.

pune Updated: Feb 14, 2018 23:57 IST
Yogesh Joshi
Killedar Sarkar wada at Shiv Shrushti, Ambegaon.
Killedar Sarkar wada at Shiv Shrushti, Ambegaon.(Pratham Gokhale/HT Photo)

With reports that the government was allocating Rs.300 crore for the Shiv Shrushti (Shivaji memorial) at Ambegaon turning out to be incorrect, the opposition by political parties to Ambegaon Shiv Shrushti appears to be more like a distraction. According to BJP leaders the opposition was a result of anxiety from the swift decision by the BJP-government of sanctioning another Shiv Shrushti at Chandani chowk in Kothrud.

The controversy surrounding the Shivaji memorial at Ambegaon was spawned after the Maharashtra government announced the setting up another Shiv Shrushti at Chandani chowk. Congress, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and some Maratha outfits have demanded cancellation of funds to the Ambegaon Shivaji memorial stating that the government had already planned to construct a Shiv Shrusthi in Kothrud on its own.

On February 7, corporators belonging to all political parties met chief minister Devendra Fadnavis in Mumbai to push for the Shiv Shrushti project at Kothrud. Fadnavis, in an hour-long meeting, sorted out the issue and shifted the proposed Shiv Shrushti (Chhatrapati Shivaji memorial) from the earlier proposed location at garbage depot, where a Metro rail car shed is being built, to Chandani chowk. The CM also said that the government will fund the project.

“It was a major victory of a sort for the local BJP unit as the issue of Shiv Shrushti was on the table for the last 15 years. Congress and NCP, the parties in power in the state and in the local body then, also couldn’t do much,” said BJP local city unit chief Yogesh Gogawale.

With Shivaji being a political constituency in Maharashtra, revered by many, the unease was visible among Congress-NCP corporators who attempted to distract the issue by raising opposition to the other Shiv Shrushti being conceived by Maharaja Shivachhatrapati Pratishthan led by historian Babasaheb Purandare.

Leader of opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil of Congress and NCP legislator Jitendra Awhad, while claiming that the Fadnavis government has decided to allocate Rs.300 crore to the Ambegaon Shiv Shrushti project, threatened to stall the work. Their grievance was that Purandare had “misrepresented history”.

“The government should form a committee comprising of history experts to design the project, instead of relying on Purandare’s work,” said Vikhe Patil in Pune.

In Mumbai, Awhad said, “Purandare has defamed Shivaji Maharaj. We wont allow the project to go ahead.”

The claim by opposition leaders that the government was allocating funds to the Ambegaon project was, however, contested by Maharaja Shivachhatrapati Pratishthan. “We have never sought money from the government nor has the government promised to pay is Rs.300 crore. The money which is currently being talked about will be raised by the Shivachhatrapati Pratishthan,” said Anil Pawar, administrative officer at Pratishtan.

Contrary to what NCP and Congress leaders have claimed, the Government Resolution dated February 8 talks about the mega-project status accorded to Shiv Shrushti, but nowhere does it mention that the government will allocate the required funds money.

The resolution said, “The Pratishthan is going to develop the theme park Shiv Shrushti at Ambegaon Budhruk alongside the Katraj-Mumbai bypass. It is expected to have a fixed capital investment of Rs.300 crore which will generate employment for 300 people. It has been accorded the ‘Mega Project’ status because it is fulfilling the norms under the Maharashtra Tourism policy of 2016.”

It is not the first time the NCP and Congress have opposed Purandare. In 2015, leaders from the opposition parties opposed Maharashtra Bhushan award to Purandare, who is considered to be one of the foremost historians of Shivaji’s life and work, to the extent that his romanticised renditions have earned him the popular title, Shiv Shahir (‘Shivaji’s bard’). His critics, though, find his work a heavy pro-Brahmin (and equally contentious anti-Muslim) tilt, attracting more opposition to his name.

In the last few decades, almost every party, including Shiv Sena, NCP, Congress and BJP, have tried to appropriate Shivaji as it has reaped political dividends. “The ongoing controversy is nothing but yet another attempt to appropriate Shivaji. Purandare being a Brahmin is an easy target in their attempt to appropriate the Maratha icon,” said Prakash Pawar, professor of Political Science.