News Analysis “Driven by business interests,” Manohar Joshi says there is no space in Kohinoor Mill compound

While remaining dead set against dismantling the ‘makeshift’ memorial for Bal Thackeray put up at Dadar’s Shivaji Park, the Shiv Sena appears to be split on the issue, political expediency being the dominant emotion at play.

While in editorials and in an interview in his party’s mouthpiece Saamana, executive president Uddhav Thackeray emphatically distanced himself from the issue, Sena MP Sanjay Raut continues with his rhetoric that does not seem to set store by law.

On Tuesday, Mr. Raut bluntly told reporters in New Delhi that the Sena would have nothing to do with the directive of the Brihanmumbai Corporation (BMC) to vacate the park, while waxing eloquent on Bal Thackeray’s ‘stature’ and what he stood for the Shiv Sainiks.

The first demand for a memorial following the death of the 86-year-old supremo on November 17 came from senior leader Manohar Joshi, who went on to say that party workers would not hesitate to take the law into their own hands for ensuring a memorial for Bal Thackeray at Shivaji Park.

However, many attribute his eagerness on the venue as a ploy to safeguard his business interests in the Kohinoor Mill compound at Dadar — a site right opposite the party’s headquarters, Sena Bhavan.

Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray and Mr. Joshi’s son, Unmesh Joshi, jointly bought the 4.8-acre Kohinoor Mill for Rs. 421 crore in 2005. At present, the mill land is worth more than Rs. 2,500 crore.

While residents are vehemently opposed to the suggestion of a memorial at Shivaji Park, the construction of which in itself would be a violation of the law, leaders from the Congress, the Nationalist Congress Party and even the MNS have pointed to a possibility of erecting a structure inside the Kohinoor Mill compound.

When asked, Mr. Joshi, a former Lok Sabha Speaker, said a memorial within the Kohinoor Mill compound “was out of the question as there was no space.” Three buildings had already come up there, he said.

But the BMC notice

clearly states permission for cremation of Bal Thackeray at Shivaji Park was given under Section 440 of the BMC Act only for a particular day (November 18) as inconvenience could be caused to people attending the funeral. It was understood that the Sena would clean and vacate the ground soon after.

The notice has said if the structure is not demolished voluntarily, the BMC would have to pull it down.

Asked whether any action would be taken against the Sena, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan merely said: “A notice has been served; it inherently implies that an inquiry is under way.”