“Even the great warrior king had to face opposition but that did not stop him. We will also not let any opposition stop the project,” said Devendra Fadnavis, the chief Minister of Maharashtra at an event.(1)
The government’s plan to build the glorious Statue of Shivaji Maharaja is adamant in spite of glaring opposition. The environmentalists fear that the marine life will be adversely affected. The fishermen protested for a week but withdrew it a day before PM Modi came to Mumbai for inauguration. The total amount to be spent is 3,600 crores which is 36 times the price estimated 12 years ago.(2) The cost involved is excessively high and people are wondering why the government is turning a blind eye to the economic atrocities the country is facing. The funds used for the memorial could well be utilized for feeding the poor, mitigating drought from the state or focusing on infrastructural development in rural areas. The faculty of utilitarianism seems to have been replaced by political prudency.
The Maratha pride that resides in Shivaji Maharaj will be depicted by the building of this statue that is estimated to be 192 meters high. It will be built in the Arabian Sea covering 15.96 hectares which will be 1.5 kms away from Raj Bhavan and 3.5kms into the Arabian Sea(3). Devendra Fadnavis believes that a long term ‘dream’ will be finally fulfilled. People will have to take ferries to reach the spot. The plan involves having a pedestal which will have a library, art gallery, museum and a cafeteria(4). The government plans to make it a tourist spot in order to earn long term revenue. They have assured employment opportunities and have promised the fishermen will get priority. The statue built will be highest in the world and double the size of Statue of Liberty. Can’t remember the last public sector man-made tourism venture gained prominence.
After PM Modi’s presence in the inaugural event and the chief minister’s remarks on how obstinate he is to build the statue, what seems to be the prevalent question is, why is the government so keen to have a statue? Is it for Maratha pride? Or any political gain?
The amount of money that is invested by the government is huge and is more than the budget of many public welfare schemes.(5) Ironically, the state is reeling under a debt of 3.79 lakhs crore already(6). The whereabouts of these funds are coming from the taxes paid by the people. The BJP government had previously proposed the building of Sardar Vallabhai Patel statue in Gujarat as a statue of unity and further supported the building of a Shivaji memorial. It was a smart but an obvious move by the central government to attract Marathi voters in the BMC elections which is just round the corner. The proposal to build this statue was first initiated by Congress-NCP government and they failed to proceed it further but made sure that all the permissions were granted. The chief minster however said that his predecessor doesn’t deserve merit.(7) While both the parties are fighting to take applause for the memorial, the previous glare towards demonetization has made a sudden transition.
The foundation of Shiv Sena party was influenced by Shivaji Maharaj, the greatest Maratha warrior king. The coalition of two parties: Shiv Sena and BJP was the highlight of the inaugural event on 24thDecember 2016. The two that were once at par with each other are now an ally is quite debatable. Sena has been one of the ruling parties in Mumbai and the lack of respect for the chief, Udhav Thackeray in the event was not appreciated by the Maratha’s. Even PM Modi chose to ignore Udhav Thackeray's comments on demonetization. This political chess move seems to scupper the Sena vote bank in light of residual alliance tensions.
Shivaji symbolism is seen everywhere. The Victoria Terminus is named after him and so is the international airport of Mumbai. The government needs to understand that the statue is not the need of the hour. If they really want to respect Shivaji, might as well renew his old forts and statues. They could use the huge amount in restoring them. Perhaps that money could be used for the welfare of our country. People’s objection towards the memorial doesn’t reflect disrespect towards Shivaji. The memorial is intended to be completed by 2018 and will be a famous tourist spot for the people. The idea to keep Shivaji's history ‘alive’ will be followed only if the country work towards religious tolerance and bring equality which were Chhatrapati Shivaji’s strong beliefs.
The unnecessary comparison of the Shivaji statue off Arabian Sea and the Statue of Liberty is vague. The former was a great warrior while the latter was a gift to United States. They are two completely different concepts. The memorial will be built anyway. If Shiv Sena and BJP will be an ally post elections or pre elections is a debatable question. However if they both go solo, then BJP would be Sena’s biggest rivalry just like Congress. If we are to embrace this construction even in the face of palpable Marathi appeasement, it will leave little leeway in terms of non performance by the government. The building of monuments signifies prosperity but doesn’t precede it.
- Indian Express. December 24, 2016.
- The Indian Express. December 23, 2016.
- Clara Lewis and Bhavika Jain. The Times of India City. October 26, 2016. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mumbai/Cash-strapped-Maharashtra-government-okays-Rs-3600-crore-Shivaji-memorial-in-Arabian-sea/articleshow/55063425.cms
- Ashish Dikshit. The Quint. December 24, 2016.
- Manasi Phadke and Faizal Mallik. December 24, 2016.
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