While uncertainty clouds the future of the Shiv Sena’s alliance with the BJP ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, the warring allies on Tuesday joined hands for the construction of a memorial to Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis announced that the construction of the memorial will be funded by the government, with the state Cabinet approving Rs 100 crore for the project.
The Cabinet also announced that the CM-led Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) will oversee the project’s implementation. The memorial is being set up in the former official mayoral bungalow, a sea-facing property owned by the Sena-controlled Mumbai municipality in the Shivaji Park area.
Earlier, clearing the decks for the memorial’s construction, the CM-led urban development (UD) department had modified the land use reservation on the plot. It also permitted the civic body to lease the land to the Uddhav Thackeray-led Balasaheb Thackeray Memorial Public Trust at a nominal rate. Last month, in another special gesture, the state government waived stamp duty and registration charges totalling Rs 14.71 crore on the lease agreement executed between the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation and the trust.
Fadnavis and Uddhav will also share the stage when the land for the memorial will be formally handed over by the municipality to the trust on Wednesday, which is Bal Thackeray’s birth anniversary. Senior Sena Minister Subhash Desai, also a member of the trust, said that a “Ganesh puja” has been planned.
Senior BJP leader and Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar told mediapersons, “The MMRDA will fund the project. The government will ensure that the money is made available to the MMRDA.”
Extending an olive branch to the Sena, he said: “Relations between the two sides were and will remain sweet.”
“There are still high chances of a pre-poll tie up between the parties. The BJP has always been in favour of an alliance,” he added. On the decision to fund the memorial work, Mungantiwar said, “Balasaheb Thackeray was not just a Shiv Sena leader, he was a leader of our alliance… In today’s Cabinet meeting, Rs 100 crore has been approved for his memorial.”
Relations between the two parties have remained choppy since the 2014 Assembly polls, when the two sides went their separate ways after a 25-year alliance, following differences over seat sharing. When they formed a post-poll alliance, their roles were reversed with the Sena, the big brother of the two in Maharashtra for 25 years, now being reduced to a junior partner.