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Chhatrapati Shivaji memorial: BJP delayed project by year-and-half to gain edge in 2017 BMC polls

Mumbai: Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi laying the foundation of the tallest Chhatrapati Shivaji memorial in the Arabian Sea on Saturday, it is the politics of it that's grabbing more headlines.

Firstpost learned from informed sources that the requisite permission for the statue was received as early as 23 February 2015 but the Maharashtra government held off the event until now with the Mumbai civic polls hardly a couple of months away to give the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party a political edge over its alliance partner Shiv Sena.

 Chhatrapati Shivaji memorial: BJP delayed project by year-and-half to gain edge in 2017 BMC polls

Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. PTI

A total of 12 permissions were required from various agencies, both central and state, for the statue which is proposed to be around 192 metres tall. Apart from the environment ministry, the nod to the statue were given by the Mumbai Port Trust, Indian Navy, Indian Coast Guard, National Security Guard, Airport Authority of India, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, Maharashtra Maritime Board, Bombay Natural History Society, Mumbai Police, Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport and Commissioner of Fisheries.

Sources told Firstpost that out of 12 clearances, 10 were already obtained during the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party regime in 2014 under then chief minister Prithviraj Chavan. Incumbent Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis managed to get the nod from the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests in February last year.

Although partners at the Centre and in the state government, both the parties have not yet tied up for the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation polls so far that would be held before 10 March 2017 in all likelihood. The BJP and Shiv Sena are ready with their own candidates for all the 227 municipal wards instead. Both the parties were together for over 15 years and each time Shiv Sena dominated the civic polls in the city.

However, this time bolstered by the aura of Modi and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis the BJP has gathered enough confidence to attempt dethroning the Shiv Sena from the numero uno position. Both BJP MP Kirit Somaiyya and Mumbai BJP president and MLA Aashish Shelar believe that the party is now emerging as a stronger entity when compared to the Shiv Sena.

In the 2014 Assembly election, BJP won 15 and Shiv Sena 14 out of the 36 Assembly seats in Mumbai. Keeping this performance in mind, the BJP is demanding a 50:50 stake in the seat sharing ratio, a demand Shiv Sena flatly refused to honour. In the last civic polls, Shiv Sena had contested in 158 seats while the BJP in 69. At present, Shiv Sena has 78 corporators against 34 of the BJP.

However, there is still a little thaw left in the air as Fadnavis personally intervened and ensured that Shiv Sena supremo Uddhav Thackeray gets to seat on the dias along with the prime minister along with 21 others.

Both the parties are trying their best to claim the event as their own success with Shiv Sena putting up hoardings saying that the proposed Shivaji memorial was a dream of late Balasaheb Thackeray while the BJP is showcasing it as a fulfillment of one of the poll promises.

"It is deplorable that and image of Shivaji is being grossly misused to meet political benefits by all political parties, institution, leaders and government machinery also. If imminent permissions were granted as back as year and half ago, then why did the government sit on the file till the time BMC election closes in. Definitely, the ruling side wishes to use the grand memorial of Chhatrapati Shivaji to win BMC, Thane Municiapal Corporation and Pune Municipal Corporation," senior journalist and former Rajya Sabha memebr Bharatkumar Raut told Firstpost.

"I am also surprised that Shiv Sena is making political issue of invitation for the function. On one side Shivsainiks are loudly saying that BJP is not bigger than Ram but they have been trying to create a drama in who goes personally to invite Uddhav Thackeray," he said.

Early on Friday, a procession was taken out from Chembur to Gateway of India where Fadnavis himself took the holy water and sand collected from more than 50 rivers and 50 forts for the ceremony.

However, the procession was marked by some disappointment as Shivsmarak Committee president and MLC Vinayak Mete walk out of the rally claiming that it was more of a BJP show of strength for the upcoming civic polls rather than a celebration of Shivaji's life.

"Ït is sad to that the BJP is using Shivaji's name for political purpose," Mete said.

Work will be carried out in two phases to build the Rs 3,600 crore Chhatrapati Shivaji memorial that will be spread across 15.96 hectares on reclamation land. The cabinet has sanctioned Rs 2,300 for the first phase.

"Engineering service provider Egis in India started their initial work in March 2016. The duration for the project is 40 months of design and construction," said an official in the know of the matter. "There will be another 60 months that would be considered as defect liability period," he said.

Even before the first 40 months get over, the state will have its next Assembly polls in October 2019.

"The project report has been done and the tendering process started on 17 October this year. After the tender gets opened, the work would be given to the lowest bidder and it would start from January next year," said state Public Works Department Minister Chandrakant Patel.

Modi will lay the foundation stone of the Chhatrapati Shivaji memorial in the Arabian Sea off Girgaum Chowpatty. Royal heirs of Shivaji, Udaynaraje Bhosale and Sambhajiraje Bhosale will also accompany Modi to the inauguration venue.

The prime minister will also lay the foundation stones for major infrastructure projects like two new metro lines, Mumbai Trans Harbour Link and Kalanagar flyover and Kurla –Vakola Elevated Road. These infrastructure projects are aimed to reduce overcrowding in suburban trains and provide some relief to the road.

"We plan to invite bids for the two metro corridors in January and work will start in October 2017," said Pravin Darade, additional metropolitan commissioner, MMRDA.

Your guide to the latest election news, analysis, commentary, live updates and schedule for Lok Sabha Elections 2019 on firstpost.com/elections. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram or like our Facebook page for updates from all 543 constituencies for the upcoming general elections.

Updated Date: Dec 23, 2016 20:08:26 IST

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