Mumbai, Jan 23 (IANS) Almost nine years after his death, Mumbai got the first life-size bronze statue honouring the memory of Shiv Sena founder-patriarch late Balasaheb Keshav Thackeray, on his 95th birth anniversary here on Saturday.
Amid showering of flowers, applause and beating of drums, his son and Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray unveiled the statue depicting Balasaheb Thackeray in his classical pose with both arms in the air, as he used to gesticulate during his famed annual Dussehra gatherings at the Shivaji Park, and even during political rallies.
Appropriately, the familiar opening words of his major speeches have been inscribed in large Marathi letters on the pedestal of the statue: “Jamlelya majha tamaam Hindu bandhavano, bhaginino ani matano (All my Hindu brothers, sisters and mothers assembled here).”
A galaxy of leaders across the political spectrum assembled to witness the special moment as the Chief Minister unveiled the statue with the entire Thackeray clan around him at a prominent spot near Colaba in south Mumbai.
The nine-feet tall bronze statue, set atop an 11-feet high pedestal, and erected on a two-feet high landscaped portion within a traffic island near the National Gallery of Modern Art, the statue has been sculpted by eminent artist Shashikant Wadke, who said he had scanned hundreds of photos and videos of Balasaheb Thackeray to get the “right expressions”.
These included a fond look at the Shiv Sainiks and the gathering, a mischievous smile accompanied by a serious frown, both arms in the air in a blessing-cum-all-encompassing gesture, his sharp features in full focus from his traditional flowing kurta-pyjama-angavastram, sporting his legendary ‘Rudraksh mala’ and his pair of square-framed thick spectacles.
Incidentally, Wadke – who lives near the family’s home in Bandra east – had earlier created statues of Balasaheb Thackeray’s wife Meenatai, and his father Keshav alias Prabodhankar Thackeray.
Present to witness the ceremony – free of speeches – were Uddhav Thackeray and his wife Rashmi, Tourism Minister Aditya Thackeray, his cousin Raj Thackeray and his son Amit and other members of the Thackeray clan.
Also attending the ceremony were Nationalist Congress Party President Sharad Pawar, State NCP Chief Jayant Patil, Congress State President Balasaheb Thorat, Republican Party of India (A) President and Union Minister Ramdas Athawale, and BJP’s Leaders of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis (Assembly) and Pravin Darekar (Council).
Mumbai Mayor Kishori Pednekar, a majority of Shiv Sena MPs, MLAs, party leaders, cabinet ministers, top police and civil officials also attended the brief but colourful ceremony.
The CM said he was overwhelmed by the turnout for the statue unveiling and expressed gratitude to all the dignitaries for coming to pay their respect to the ‘Hindu Hriday Samrat’.
While a grand memorial of Balasaheb Thackeray is coming at the erstwhile Mayor’s Bungalow at Shivaji Park, a 22-feet tall statue of the leader came up in Navi Mumbai.
Certain other landmarks named after him include the BMC’s Trauma Care Hospital in Jogeshwari, the under-constuction Mumbai-Nagpur Super Communication Expressway, an international zoo at Gorewada in Nagpur with demands to name the upcoming second international airport in Navi Mumbai after the Sena founder.