More to memorial than Thackeray memory

FP

For the last week, the love of Maharashtra politicians for memorials, with a controversy or two thrown in, has been apparent. The Shiv Sena's call for an ode to Bal Thackeray in Shivaji Park wasn't the first time a demand such as this sparked off a row. The scenic and prime 12.5-acre Indu Mill land for an "international" memorial for Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar has been stuck in red tape between the state and the Centre while the proposal for an equestrian statue of Shivaji Maharaj is virtually buried in the Arabian Sea.

Interestingly, veteran Sena MP Manohar Joshi who first made the Shivaji Park memorial call is blamed for the party losing ground in its citadel of Dadar in Central Mumbai, where the ground is located. Earlier this year, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena swept all the seven municipal corporation seats here, with Thackeray reportedly summoning Joshi for an explanation.

Joshi's remarks are being read as political manoeuvring within the Sena to bolster his position. He has pressed the matter despite Thackeray's son Uddhav himself appealing that the memorial not be marred by controversy and that they be allowed a quiet mourning.

His memorial demand also callously ignores the fact that apart from being Thackeray's political home ground, Shivaji Park is also a playground to protect which locals have approached the court — political parties, incidentally, have opposed Grade I heritage tag to it. The court had declared it a silence zone and prohibited any rallies or functions.

A stickler for rules, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan — with whom both Uddhav and Raj Thackeray incidentally share a special rapport — has stuck to his guns that a memorial at the park is not possible.

Ironically, what has remained unsaid is that the clamour for a memorial is for a leader who refused to write his biography and did not want any statues built in his lifetime. During a launch of a photo biography in 2005 by nephew Raj, Thackeray had said that his photo biography was not his story, but that of the Sena.

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