Bal Thackeray garden to bloom at Shivaji Park

Mumbai, Dec 18 (IANS) A beautiful, landscaped garden dedicated to the memory of the late Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray will bloom at Shivaji Park, where he was cremated last month, an official said here Tuesday.

The decision by the Brihan Mumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) came hours after the Shiv Sena voluntarily "vacated" the cremation site at the historic 28-acre ground in central Mumbai's Dadar.

Mumbai Mayor Sunil Prabhu said that the garden would serve as a befitting memorial for the late Shiv Sena chief and would be properly landscaped by a prominent architect.

A proposal for a memorial at Shivaji Park came up before the BMC ruled by the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party and was sent to Municipal Commissioner Sitaram Kunte.

While Kunte has agreed to allot a 800-square feet plot for the garden-memorial, no other type of construction activity or statue would be permitted at the venue.

Early Tuesday morning, the shifting of the cremation site was done amid tight security at Shivaji Park around 2.30 a.m. in the presence of a few top party leaders, including Sunil Prabhu, Subhash Desai and senior leader Rahul Shewale.

The entire operation was carried out peacefully at the dead of the night though a group of Shiv Sainiks assembled outside the 28-acre Shivaji Park precincts.

Thackeray, who died Nov 17, was accorded a state funeral at Shivaji Park ground in central Mumbai the following day.

However, post-cremation, the Shiv Sena was reluctant to vacate the premises and had demanded a memorial be raised for the late leader at the spot.

Later, the cremation site was virtually converted into a pilgrimage site with an "eternal flame", maintaining round-the-clock vigil, tourists and students thronging the place daily to pay homage to Bal Thackeray even as the authorities grappled with the sensitive issue.

The party also demanded that Thackeray's memorial should be constructed at the Shivaji Park and the historic park be renamed as 'Shivtirth' among other things, but the government remained non-committal.

With the approval to the garden-memorial proposal, the entire matter has ended amicably for all parties concerned.

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