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Funeral over, call for memorial

Mumbai, Nov. 19: If Mumbaikars were expecting it, the Shiv Sena didn’t disappoint.

The Sena today said it “would like” a memorial to be built to Bal Thackeray at Shivaji Park, the “cradle” of Indian cricket where the party’s late patriarch was given a state funeral yesterday, coming up with a call not entirely unexpected.

The Congress-NCP government in Maharashtra responded cautiously, saying it would take a “positive approach” if it received a formal proposal.

Senior Sena leader and former Lok Sabha Speaker Manohar Joshi voiced the demand minutes after Thackeray’s son Uddhav and other family members had collected the ashes of the late leader from the pyre.

“The Shiv Sena would like Balasaheb’s memorial to come up at Shivaji Park along side the Chhatrapati Shivaji statue. I will discuss the issue with Shiv Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray and meet chief minister Prithviraj Chavan regarding this,” Joshi said, adding that he hoped the state government would provide land for constructing the memorial.

A statue of Thackeray’s late wife Meenatai stands at the park’s entrance.

Minister of state for urban development Bhaskar Jadhav said the demand was “understandable”.

“Balasaheb had an emotional attachment with Shivaji Park and the demand for a memorial by his followers is understandable. At the moment, we have not received any proposal. But, similar to the government’s positive approach over the issue of allowing a public state funeral yesterday, we will take a positive approach on this issue if a proper proposal comes is all I can say at this stage,” Jadhav, a former Sena leader from Konkan, said.

The cautious approach indicates that the Chavan government clearly expects legal hurdles in allowing a Thackeray memorial at the park, especially from Bombay High Court, which has declared the ground a “silence zone”.

For the past three years, the court has given the Sena permission to hold Dussehra rallies at the park, but with conditions. Apart from the condition that the party stick to decibel norms, the court asked it not to damage the cricket pitches on the ground where players like Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar, Eknath Solkar, Sandeep Patil and Sanjay Manjrekar once trained.

Considering that lakhs attended the funeral yesterday, the possibility of damage to cricket pitches cannot be ruled out.

The government also apprehends public interest petitions on the issue of according a state funeral for Thackeray when he did not hold any constitutional post.

The Sena today announced that Thackeray’s ashes would be kept at Shiv Sena Bhavan to allow party workers to pay their last respects to the departed leader till tomorrow. The ashes would then be distributed in urns among Sena district chiefs and party unit chiefs from other states.

From November 23, the ashes would be immersed in rivers at Harihareshwar in Konkan, Nashik in north Maharashtra, Haridwar, Benares and Kanyakumari.

The Sena has also moved a proposal to install a statue of Thackeray in front of the party-run Thane Municipal Corporation headquarters.

The proposal was moved by Sena leader and former Thane mayor Ashok Vaity and supported by the leader of the Opposition Hanumant Jagdale.