The proposed mid-sea memorial to Chhatrapati Shivaji, a warrior king known to stay away from self-aggrandisement, is once again under a cloud with its estimated cost being seen as expensive symbolism only to assuage voters’ sentiments. Last month, the state Public Works Department received a Rs 3,826-crore bid from L&T, the lowest among the three interested bidders, for construction of the first phase of the memorial. The bid was considerably higher than the state’s estimate for the first phase, which was pegged at Rs 2,500 crore while the entire project was estimated to cost approximately Rs 3,600 crore.
“The state has to decide on the issue. We will look into how we can lower the cost of the project. Otherwise, we may have to call for fresh bids,” a senior state government official told The Indian Express. Having drawn its share of critics already, the first financial bid is now nearly 53 per cent higher than the government’s estimate. Officials said efforts are on currently to cross-verify if the original estimates were accurate and realistic. Re-tendering could result in a further delay to the project, with the anticipated launch of construction in June now unlikely.
The project was first mooted by the Congress-NCP combine as an attempt to consolidate Maharashtra’s 32 per cent Maratha voters. The Congress-NCP’s 2004 poll manifesto promised the memorial to Shivaji. In June 2008, the Congress-NCP government made an announcement stating that the memorial would comprise an equestrian statue of the warrior king, a museum dedicated to his life and a mini-theatre. In 2009, the state cabinet gave clearance to a design of the Shivaji Memorial to be built mid-sea.
A design jointly submitted by Mumbai-based Team One architectural firm and Bangkok-based Bensley Design Studio had earlier been selected by a committee comprising then Chief Minister Ashok Chavan and deputy CM Chhagan Bhujbal. Kept in abeyance, the proposal was revived in 2012 with then Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan forming a committee under the then guardian minister of Mumbai Jayant Patil to check whether the original plan could be operationalised.
The project did not make much progress during the Congress-NCP regime, and the BJP government has decided to revive the project and make it grander. It also got Prime Minister Narendra Modi to conduct a symbolic ‘jal-poojan’ at the site of the project. As governments changed, the scale of the project has also increased. From a modest 98 metres, it was increased to 190 metres during the Congress-NCP tenure and subsequently to 210 metres by the present BJP government.
The BJP-led Maharashtra government now plans to spend a whopping Rs 3,500 crore for the entire project to be built in two phases. The first phase will involve land reclamation and making the area ready for construction. A pedestal with the statue will also be built during this phase, which will house a library, art gallery and museum. In the second phase, an amphitheatre and a state-of-the-art viewing system will be built, where the life of the warrior king will be on display.