Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has set a 2018 deadline for the completion of the Rs 2,000-crore grand memorial to Maratha icon Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj off the Mumbai coast.
"The Chief Minister has set a deadline of 2018 for the project to be completed. He has directed the relevant departments to ensure that all preparations are done for the Bhumipujan which might take place in either April or May this year," said an official in the Chief Minister's Office.
In November last year, the state government had announced that the Bhumipujan ceremony for the memorial would be done by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. However, delay in the project has seen the government come in for criticism.
Meanwhile, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) President Raj Thackeray has criticised the government's move and said that instead of building the memorial, it would do well to restore and protect the various forts constructed by the 17th Century Maratha ruler.
The project was conceptualised by the previous Congress-NCP government. But things had not moved beyond the identification of the site for the proposed memorial. After the Union Environment Ministry granted approval to the project, the BJP-led state government set up a committee under party MLC Vinayak Mete to draw up plans for the same.
The project envisages the construction of a 190-ft high monument standing five kilometres inside the Arabian Sea off the coast of Girgaum Chowpatty.
In the last budget, the state government had made an initial allocation of Rs 90 crore for the project, which is estimated to cost around Rs 2,000 crore.
The height of the statue of Shivaji astride a horse reportedly would be higher than the planned Statue of Unity of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel in Gujarat, which is to be 182m high.
The plan for the Shivaji memorial project was conceived almost 30 years ago. The previous Congress-NCP government had twice spoken about constructing the memorial -- before the 2004 and 2009 Assembly elections.