Sena-BJP want Balasaheb memorial at Shivaji Park

FP
A day after Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray was cremated at the iconic Shivaji Park, party leaders Monday demanded the construction of a memorial for him there. While Sena ally BJP supported the demand, the Congress-NCP alliance government responded cautiously.

Sena leader and former chief minister Manohar Joshi said the party was keen a memorial be built at the park where Thackeray's last rites were performed with full state honours. "The only thing that can come up next to Shivaji maharaj's statue is Balasaheb's memorial. We know that the state government will give a go-ahead for the proposal," Joshi said.

Senior BJP MLA Vinod Tawde said Shivaji Park was the right place for a memorial for Thackeray and the state should not create hurdles for the project.

The park, spread over 27.9 acres, is the largest in Mumbai and among the city's coveted open spaces. It was designated as a park by the Bombay Municipal Corporation in 1925 and has played a key role in the city's history.

The Sena, which likes to refer to the park as Shiv Teerth, has a special affiliation for it since the first rally announcing the formation of the party was held there. It has now assumed further significance with Thackeray being cremated at the park.

Former Sena member and now NCP leader and minister of state for urban development, Bhaskar Jadhav, said the government would take a positive decision if a proposal was made.

"We have still not received any request from anyone. If we do get a request from the Thackeray family, we will check out the legality of the proposal and will definitely take a positive decision," he said. Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan said he had not received a proposal and refused to comment further.

Sena leaders said party corporators would soon move a proposal in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation for the construction of a memorial at the park. The government's response will be keenly watched as residents of the area have been complaining about the degradation of the park.

The Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee had mooted a proposal to accord Shivaji Park — declared a silent zone by the BMC after High Court intervention — and its adjacent areas heritage status. The high court has also been keen to ensure Shivaji Park's prime status is maintained.

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