Shiv Sena softens stance on Thackeray memorial

Mumbai, Dec 13 (IANS) In what is considered a climbdown, the Shiv Sena Thursday softened its aggressive stance on the proposed memorial at Shivaji Park for late party chief Bal Thackeray.

Party executive president Uddhav Thackeray said that his father's cremation site would be shifted a little distance away, near the massive statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji at the northwest corner of the ground.

"The site will remain at Shivaji Park, but a little distance away, near the statue. The very same Shiv Sainiks who were Bal Thackeray's strength, shall carry out the task with their own hands," Uddhav declared in a front-page statement in Thursday's issue of the party mouthpiece, 'Saamana', signalling an end to the controversy.

"Thackeray's views always set Shivaji Park afire over the years. The same fiery thoughts will continue to inspire the people of Maharashtra from the same venue, and provide strength to Hindus. There will be a slight change in the location of the cremation site, which will remain at Shivaji Park," Uddhav asserted.

Spelling relief for the state government, the top Shiv Sena leadership is also veering around to construction of a memorial somewhere in the vicinity of the historic, 28-acre Shivaji Park, at Dadar, in central Mumbai.

In a related development, a senior party leader in the Shiv Sena-controlled Brihan Mumbai Municipal Corporation Rahul Shewale hinted that the demand for renaming Shivaji Park as 'Shivtirth' would end.

Shewale indicated that only the Thackeray cremation site would be named 'Shivtirth' since Shivaji Park, Chhatrapati Shivaji and Bal Thackeray were inseparable entities.

Since Thackeray's demise Nov 17, the Shiv Sena had vociferously demanded that a memorial to him be erected at Shivaji Park.

The cremation site was virtually 'converted' into a pilgrimage site as a flame was kept burning round-the-clock, and a vigil maintained day and night. Tourists and students have been thronging the place daily to pay homage to the departed leader, even as authorities grappled with the sensitive issue.

Party MP and spokesperson Sanjay Raut declared in New Delhi Thursday that the process to remove the small marquee from the cremation site to a nearby location would be completed soon, as per instructions of Uddhav Thackeray.

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