The party that’s synonymous with its patriarch Bal Thackeray wants to keep the late leader alive in the hearts and minds of the citizen, and believes memorials honouring him at a significant number of street corners will do the trick.
In fact, several party leaders returning after collecting Thackeray’s asthi kalash (urn containing remains) told MiD DAY that they intend to have at least one Balasaheb monument in each of the 35 districts of Maharashtra. 151 such urns were distributed among district heads, MLAs and department heads at Sena Bhavan yesterday. All the leaders were also presented framed pictures of Thackeray.
Eknath Shinde, MLA and party head of Thane district, said, “We have almost finalised plans on erecting a memorial for our beloved leader Balasaheb Thackeray outside Thane Municipal Corporation.”
All the urns will be kept in various districts till November 23, following which the ashes will be immersed into a river at a holy place. Many Sena district heads have decided not only to constitute memorials but also carrying out all the Hindu religious rituals that follow a death, at a mass level.
Atul Sonavane, Sena head of Dhule district, said, “We have a meeting lined up at our local municipal corporation about erecting a memorial for Balasaheb. A decision on that will be taken soon. But on November 25, thousands of Sena supporters in our district will shave their heads for paying respect to the leader.”
“We will be putting up his monument in the market area of our district over 150 acres of land. Countless people in our district admired him and we should not face any problems in carrying out the project,” said Asaram Borade, Sena district head from Jalna in Marathwada.
However, Shiv Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray has asked his colleagues to focus on more relevant issues. “This is not the time for debating about a memorial of the Shiv Sena chief. Even now the Thackeray family and Sena is grieving the loss.
So why this argument over having a memorial? All those who are commenting and making an issue out of this should appreciate the situation and I request them with folded hands to cooperate with us in maintaining peace and serenity. We saw a sea of 25 lakh supporters at the Shiv Sena chief’s funeral. I thank them for showing discipline and maintaining peace. I will leave the decision of the memorial to the lakhs of hardcore Shiv Sainiks. I don’t want to stand between the Shiv Sena supremo and the Sainiks.”
Meanwhile, the saffron leader’s demise has translated into boom time for photo studios — small and large —, as they have been getting hundreds of order for such mounted pictures over the past few days. A frame maker outside Sena Bhavan has already been booked by about 300 people. “The picture in which he is pointing a finger, which he usually did during his speeches, is in high demand. I only get so many orders during Dussehra rallies of Shiv Sena,” said Aniket Panchal, owner of the shop.
‘BMC to decide’
The state administration is of the view that BMC is capable of deciding whether a memorial for Bal Thackeray should come up at Shivaji Park. “The BMC commissioner can take such a call, but he will have to take into consideration all the related aspects of the issue as the area is reserved as a playground since 1925,” a senior government official said. In 1927, the space was renamed Shivaji Park in memory of Shivaji on the occasion of his 300th birth centenary.
The proposed memorial may have to go through legal scrutiny, as it is likely to be challenged in the court of law, said the official. Even if it comes up to respect public sentiment, sporting activities — especially cricket — will definitely suffer a setback, he maintained, adding that a number of restrictions will follow thereafter on players.
The best thing would be to carve out some space from the Indu Mills land that the state wants to use to erect the memorial of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, said another official. Meanwhile, PWD minister Chhagan Bhujbal has suggested the mayor’s bungalow near Shivaji Park for the proposed memorial. Some space in the bungalow compound facing Veer Savarkar Marg can be used for the purpose, he has suggested.