The decision on a suitable site for a memorial to Bal Thackeray will rest with Shiv Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray, the latest statement released by the departed leader’s party declares in an apparent effort to quell the bickering over the issue since a week.
Suggestions and objections from various leaders over an appropriate site have been flying thick and fast since the demise of Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray on November 17. The Shiv Sena statement takes note of the discontent that was brewing among some top leaders in the party over the issue.
A leader living near Shivaji Park was the first to come up with the idea of building the memorial on the ground. Then the MNS, which is led by Uddhav’s cousin Raj Thackeray, said it wanted the memorial to be at the nearby Indu Mills, but backtracked after its suggestion gave rise to another controversy as Dalit leaders who have been seeking the mill land for a Babasaheb Ambedkar memorial took objection to it.
Now, despite Uddhav making it clear that any decision on the memorial would be taken only after all the rituals are over, the debate within the party on a suitable location has alreadybegun.
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) also decided to do some deliberation on the matter and formed a committee to suggest a suitable place. Amid all the discussion at the BMC on the issue, corporators unanimously decided the final say on the memorial spot should rest with Uddhav.
It was Shiv Sena leader Manohar Joshi who was among the first to come up with the idea of a memorial within Shivaji Park. When there were rumours that the memorial would be built at some place in Dadar other than Shivaji Park, there was some discontent in the Joshi camp, as it was said that he was still of the view that the memorial should come up in Shivaji Park.
While Joshi could not be reached for comment, a senior party functionary claimed that it was “Joshisaheb’s personal view”.
“He felt the memorial should be in Shivaji Park and hence expressed his feelings and desire,” the leader said. “He has been close to Balasaheb since the inception of the party and so his comment is an emotional one. People should take this into consideration, before interpreting anything else.”
A senior corporator said it was time for the debate to end as it was now up to Uddhav Thackeray to decide on the place for a memorial.
“We will be submitting a list of places to him after Thursday,” the corporator said. “The controversy is being blown out of proportion for no reason; the family is in mourning and raising such issues at this time doesn’t help.”
The corporator said it would be wrong to bring politics into the issue as the only sentiment harboured by Bal Thackeray’s followers was to have a historic memorial for him.
“Before deciding on the place for a memorial we have to be pretty clear about the local sentiments as well,” the corporator said. “We will have the memorial in Dadar area. It won’t be moved anywhere else from Dadar, but remaining adamant on one particular spot is nothing but a futile attempt to prove loyalty when it’s not required.”
Shiv Sena spokesperson Rahul Narvekar refused to discuss the issue, only denying any discontent within the party over it. “Right now the Thackeray family is busy performing the rituals,” Narvekar said. “This is not the right time (to talk about the memorial) and our executive president will be the one to decide on it, but only after all the rituals are performed.”