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Mill memorial tit for tat

Mumbai, Nov 23: If Balasaheb’s nephew wants a plot to build a memorial to him, Babasaheb’s grandson knows exactly where he can find it: the prime mill land that Raj Thackeray and Shiv Sena leader Manohar Joshi’s son had controversially bought seven years ago.

Republican Sena leader Anandraj Ambedkar’s rejoinder comes a day after a Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) councillor demanded a plot of vacant mill land, where the Republican Party of India (RPI) wants a monument to Babasaheb Ambedkar, for the Balasaheb memorial.

“The land at Kohinoor Mill should be used for the Thackeray memorial to allow those who have earned crores of rupees because of Balasaheb’s blessings to free themselves from his debts,” Anandraj rubbed it in.

Raj and Unmesh Joshi, partners in Matoshree Infrastructure, had snapped up Kohinoor Mill’s 4.9-acre plot in Dadar, bang opposite Shiv Sena Bhavan, for Rs 421 crore. They outbid big construction firms in the auction — one of defunct mills’ plots by the National Textile Corporation.

Political rivals had cried foul, demanding a probe and a fresh auction. Raj sold a part of his stakes for an undisclosed profit in 2009. The MNS headquarters now stands on this plot and a highrise, Kohinoor Square, towers above Shiv Sena Bhavan.

Yesterday, MNS councillor Sandeep Deshpande had demanded the plot of the India United (Indu) Mill, another defunct National Textile Corporation mill, as the site for the memorial. The Indu mill stands near the Shivaji Park.

The Ramdas Athawale-led RPI, however, has long been fighting for the land for an Ambedkar memorial. Hundreds of Dalit activists had stormed the premises on Ambedkar’s death anniversary, December 6, last year and set up a makeshift memorial.

Athawale today dubbed Deshpande’s demand as “nothing but stupidity”, saying: “These people should be admitted to a mental hospital.”

He said his party would demonstrate outside Parliament next week demanding allotment of the Indu Mill land and storm the plot on December 6 if a decision was not taken by then.

The MNS softened its stand this evening, general secretary Anil Shidore saying Deshpande’s was a personal demand and did not reflect the party’s official stand.

“The party’s official position is taken only by Raj Thackeray,” he said in a statement.

The Shiv Sena had demanded a Thackeray memorial at Shivaji Park, which chief minister Prithviraj Chavan ruled out today saying the laws did not allow that.