The late Bala Saheb Thackeray may have been a bitter critic of north Indians, but the Shiv Sena has hired a north Indian sculptor to make bulk life size statues of the veteran politician.
Sculptor Shravan Prajapati claimed that he was contacted by Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray after Bala Saheb passed away in November.
He was told to "work on statues of Bala Saheb" and that these should be "real in touch and feel".
Prajapati, hitherto known for making statues of former Uttar Pradesh chief minister and BSP chief Mayawati and her mentor Kanshiram, thereafter made a colour fabric statue and a bronze statue of Thackeray.
The sculptor flew to Mumbai Nov 29 and had detailed discussions with Uddhav Thackeray.
The Thackeray family briefed him on what they expected in the statue: Bala Saheb should look what he looked like when the BJP-Shiv Sena governed Maharashtra in 1994.
"He should be clean shaven, unlike his end days when he sported a beard, his face was swollen et al," Prajapati said.
Having begun work in February, he has completed two 4.5 feet statues - one in bronze and the other one in fibre.
The bronze statue has been approved and is kept in Mumbai while the other one was brought back to Lucknow by the sculptor.
"The family was very happy at the results. Now I have an order of more than a thousand statues," he adds.
The biggest statue ordered is 40 feet tall, which would be put up at the memorial of the Shiv Sena leader at Shivaji Park in Mumbai. The smallest is 18 inches tall.
While the big ones are to be in bronze, the smaller ones would be in fibre.
"I have rejected (the idea of) marble statues as it is a hazard," he said, recalling how the Mayawati statue he had made was ransacked by some youngsters in Lucknow.
A contract has been signed between Uddhav Thackeray and Prajapati which makes him the sole authorized statue maker of Bal Thackeray and bans others from making such statues.
Under the agreement, even Prajapati cannot sell these statues as the "official sale counter" would only be at the Shiv Sena Bhawan - the party headquarter in Dadar, Mumbai.
"Soon mass production of these miniature statues will begin. Going by the orders my firm is getting, bulk manufacturing is only a matter of time," he said.
The sculptor says Bal Thackeray enjoyed a god like stature in Maharashtra.
"It is amazing! When I took the statue from here to Mumbai, I spent about Rs.50,000 on transport charges.
"But when I flew it back, I merely spent Rs.1,350 as no policeman, CISF personnel checked me, the airlines did not charge me."
Uddhav Thackeray has given him Rs.20 lakh as advance payment. "I have been told money is not an issue."
The statues that are to be produced in bulk would be 18 inches tall, in colour, with the Sena founder leader seated on a throne like chair, a chain of beads around his neck and his plastic frame glasses in place. He will be shown wearing his favourite saffron robes.