On Bal Thackeray birth anniversary, warring allies BJP-Sena try to patch-up

Mumbai: On the eve of the 93rd birth anniversary of Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray, the Bharatiya Janata Party on Tuesday attempted to mollify its warring ally with a Rs 100-crore gift for the proposed Thackeray memorial. The Maharashtra cabinet presided over by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis took the decision today to sanction the amount for the memorial coming up at the erstwhile Mayor’s Bungalow at Shivaji Park, through the ‘Balasaheb Thackeray Memorial Public Trust’.

On Wednesday, the documents pertaining to the premises owned by the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) will also be handed over to the BTMPT, paving the way for a ‘Ganesh puja’ at the site. Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray, his family members and other party officials will perform the ‘puja’ while a bigger formal ‘bhoomi puja’ will be held later which Prime Minister Narendra Modi may attend. The Rs 100-crore fund for the memorial will come through the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA), which is under the jurisdiction of Fadnavis.

“Relations between the BJP-Sena will always remain sweet,” said Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar after the cabinet meeting. He said the BJP has always favoured an alliance with its oldest ally, the Sena and felt there are chances for an alliance before the upcoming 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Mungantiwar’s statements and the latest developments assumed signifance amid reports that a special screening of the biopic, ‘Thackeray releasing this week (January 25), may be held for Modi in New Delhi.

Though allies for nearly 30 years, the relations have soured between the two parties with the Sena regularly targeting the BJP, its president Amit Shah, and Modi. Last year, the Sena unilaterally announced that it would contest the 2019 Lok Sabha and assembly elections solo, but the BJP remains optimistic of the crucial alliance. Today’s developments followed the exit of Mayor Vishwanath Mahadeshwar from the Shivaj Park bungalow yesterday to the new premises inside the Veermata Jijabai Bhosle Udyan & Zoo, Byculla.

The late Thackeray, a firebrand orator, cartoonist and politician was revered as ‘Hindu Hridaysamrat’ till his demise on November 17, 2012 in Mumbai. Since then, there has been a huge clamour for a suitable grand memorial in his honour. The 28-acre Shivaji Park is located opposite the former mayoral residence and close to the Veer Savarkar Memorial and the B.R. Ambedkar Memorial here. The cradle of Indian cricket, Shivaji Park is also famed for other events, such as the Shiv Sena’s annual Dassehra rally started by the late Thackeray, parades and exhibitions and political rallies.

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