Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday laid in Mumbai, the foundation stone of the proposed world-class memorial for Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, the chief architect of Indian Constitution amid a boycott by Shiv Sena, its ally both in the state and the central government.
Modi, who arrived here on a half-day visit, visited the Chaityabhoomi in Dadar, where Ambedkar was cremated and paid homage to the great Dalit leader.
Later, he went to the Indu Mills Compound in the adjacent complex and completed the foundation- laying ceremony for the Ambedkar Memorial proposed to be constructed there at a cost of over Rs.4 billion on the 12.5 acres plot.
Modi was accompanied by Maharashtra Governor C. V. Rao, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, state BJP president Raosaheb Danve, Ambedkar's grandson Dr. Prakash Ambedkar, leading of most Dalit political parties and other dignitaries.
Conspicuous by their absence were Shiv Sena leaders starting from party president Uddhav Thackeray to city Mayor Snehal Ambekar following a decision to boycott Modi's functions in the city on Sunday.
The opposition Congress and Nationalist Congress Party also criticized Fadnavis for "converting a national function" into a party function and not inviting other party leaders for the event.
"We welcome the foundation stone laying ceremony of Ambedkar Memorial, the project initiated by the Congress-NCP government. We regret Maharashtra government's attempts to politicise it by portraying it as a BJP function," said senior state Congress leader and legislator Sanjay Dutt.
"Fadnavis is a man with small heart. He should have personally invited NCP president Sharad Pawar who had championed the cause of Indu Mills. It was the NCP which had demanded that Ambedkar Memorial should be set up there," NCP spokesperson Mahesh Tapase said in a statement.
Mumbai Congress president Sanjay Nirupam thanked Modi for 'carrying forward' the party's project to make the world-class Ambedkar Memorial.
Referring to the boycott by hiv Sena, Nirupam tweeted, "Complete breakdown in Maharashtra ruling alliance - they hate each other like 'sautan' (mistress)."
Most banners and hoardings on the function in different parts of the city blacked out the Shiv Sena or other parties with the focus on BJP national and state leaders.
According to plans, the Ambedkar Memorial will have am over 100 feet tall statue of Ambedkar, a museum, a library and research centre and other facilities for tourists.