Mumbai: Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan has given a stern message to the Shiv Sena. He has said Shivaji Park, a large open ground in central Mumbai, was given to the Shiv Sena just for Bal Thackeray's cremation. Chavan said the Shiv Sena must vacate Shivaji Park.
"Shivaji Park was given for Bal Thackeray's cremation on the grounds that it will be returned in the same condition. We want the Shiv Sena to abide by the conditions and follow the law," Chavan said.
Ever since Thackeray's death, the Shiv Sena has pressed for a memorial to be built at Shivaji Park. Shiv Sena workers on Saturday gathered in large number at the funeral site of Bal Thackeray at Shivaji Park in Mumbai amid reports that the authorities were planning to remove the structure that has come up at the place.
"Come what may, we won't allow the removal of the 30x30 feet chowthara (platform)," Sena legislator Eknath Shinde told reporters. Referring to the large number of Shiv Sainiks from Mumbai, Thane and other places who had come to Shivaji Park, Shinde said they would not budge from the venue and also foil attempts to remove the structure.
The Brihan Mumbai Municipal Corporation had also sent a notice to the Shiv Sena to dismantle the temporary structure built at the Shivaji Park. BMC denied permission for a Bal Thackeray memorial at the Shivaji Park.
BMC said that the permission to use the ground was given only for the cremation and that it should be restored to its original status as it is a reserved plot as per the city development plan. "The purpose for which the site was alloted (for Thackeray's cremation) is over. Therefore, we have asked both Prabhu and Raut to remove the structure immediately or face legal consequences," Municipal Commissioner Sitaram Kunte had said.
Earlier, Shiv Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray had said that the controversy over the Bal Thackeray memorial was unnecessary. Uddhav in an interview to Sena's paper 'Saamna' said that the Sena will continue fighting for 'Marathi Manoos' and 'Hindutvavaad'.
Opposing the demand, state Congress on Saturday said no "other" memorial should come up at the sprawling ground in central Mumbai. "Shivaji Maharaj is a god for people of Maharashtra. His memorial is already there at Shivaji Park," MPCC chief Manikrao Thakre said.
The 86-year-old Sena chief was cremated on November 18 at Shivaji Park, the same ground where he had addressed his followers during Dassera rallies for over 40 years and the party is keen to have Thackeray's memorial there. Last week, Sena had equated the edifice where Balasaheb's last rites were conducted at Shivaji Park, to Ayodhya. "The sanctity of the place should be maintained. It is like a temple for us and we won't remove the structure that has come up at the cremation site," Raut had told reporters.
He had also asked the government and court not to intervene in the issue. Senior party leader Manohar Joshi first made the demand for the memorial of Bal Thackeray at the site, soon after he was cremated on November 18. Thackeray died on November 17 at his residence 'Matoshree'.
(With additional information from PTI)