PM Narendra Modi on Saturday laid the Foundation for a Rs 3,600-crore grand memorial for Shivaji Maharaj off the city coast, an event that comes a few months ahead of the civic polls and amid tussle among parties to claim the legacy of the 17th century warrior king.
Modi, accompanied by select dignitaries, including Governor Vidyasagar Rao, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray, sailed in a hovercraft from Girgaum Chowpatty beach in south Mumbai to reach near the memorial site, some 1.5km off the coast.
The PM performed the ‘jalpujan’ at the designated spot, symbolically marking the start of construction of the magnificent memorial in the Arabian Sea, which, according to the state government, is going to be the tallest such structure in the world.
Shivaji’s descendants Udayanraje Bhosale and Sambhaji Raje (both Parliamentarians) were also on board the hovercraft. Before the event, Fadnavis handed over to Modi a ‘kalash’ (vase) containing river waters and soil collected from all districts in Maharashtra.
When the hovercraft reached the memorial site, Modi immersed the ‘kalash’ in the sea. The PM also inspected a float depicting Shivaji Maharaj’s coronation.
During the ceremony, Modi was seen talking to Thackeray, whose party, despite being an ally, has been a bitter critic of many of the BJP-led NDA Government’s decisions, including demonetisation.
Earlier in the day, Sena alleged the BJP has “hijacked” the occasion to reap political benefit.
In October last year, Thackeray had ‘boycotted’ a foundation stone-laying ceremony for the Ambedkar memorial, apparently after he was denied a seat alongside the PM on the dais.