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Raj eyes mill

Bal Thackeray

Mumbai, Nov. 22: Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena has demanded vacant mill land near Shivaji Park for a memorial to Bal Thackeray, setting its sights on a 12-acre plot where another party wants a monument to B.R. Ambedkar.

“Thackeray had many facets to his personality. He was a politician, a cartoonist and a visionary leader. It is important that all aspects of his personality are reflected in the memorial, for which a large space is required. Shivaji Park does not have that. So we feel that Indu Mill is a better option,” MNS councillor Sandeep Deshpande said at a Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation meeting to pay homage to the late Shiv Sena founder.

Shiv Sainiks want a memorial at Shivaji Park, but residents of the neighbourhood are resisting it.

Indu Mill, as India United Mill is popularly known, is central government land owned by the National Textile Corporation.

The MNS demand is certain to rile the Ramdas Athawale-led Republican Party of India, a new ally of the Shiv Sena-BJP, that has long been fighting for the land for an Ambedkar memorial. Hundreds of Dalit activists had gatecrashed the premises on Ambedkar’s death anniversary on December 6 last year and set up a makeshift memorial.

Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan had taken up the matter with the Union textile ministry but NTC, which has been selling its defunct mills for a huge profit, was reluctant to give the land free. Chavan had also discussed the issue with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Athawale has publicly opposed including the MNS in the three-party alliance forged in 2011 on Thackeray’s initiative. The Sena and the BJP have been silent.

Today, Congress councillors also joined the chorus and said Dadar railway station, the closest railhead to Shivaji Park, be named after Thackeray.