Mumbai

Stone laying of Ambedkar statue put off

Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Friday postponed the foundation stone laying ceremony of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar’s statue at Indu Mills compound in central Mumbai after only 16 dignitaries being invited for the event led to discontent in political circles.

Mr. Thackeray said, “It is everyone’s wish to build a grand memorial to Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar at Indu Mills. There cannot be political or organisational differences in it.” Only a few people had been invited to the function in order to maintain physical distancing.

“The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority [MMRDA] did all the preparations and planned the ceremony. However, I brought to their notice that everyone needs to be a part of such an important programme. Therefore, I have directed that the event be postponed and all important dignitaries be invited,” Mr. Thackeray said.

Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar and Social Justice Minister Dhananjay Munde were not informed about the event till late on Thursday, resulting in both of them remaining at their respective districts, Pune and Beed. While they had left for Mumbai, none of the other Cabinet colleagues, including former chief minister Ashok Chavan, and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) State president Jayant Patil, were informed about the event.

Apart from Mr. Thackeray, Mr. Pawar and Mr. Munde, the 16 invitees included Ministers Balasaheb Thorat, Eknath Shinde, Chhagan Bhujbal, Varsha Gaikwad, Nitin Raut, Aslam Sheikh, Aaditya Thackeray; the Mumbai Mayor; the local MLA; two local corporators; the chief secretary; and the principal secretary of the Social Justice Department.

NCP president and Rajya Sabha MP Sharad Pawar, who had reviewed the memorial along with Mr. Munde and Mr. Pawar just days after the Maha Vikas Aghadi government came to power, was not invited for the programme. Leaders of the Opposition in the State Assembly and the Council, Devendra Fadnavis and Pravin Darekar respectively, were not invited despite them being in Mumbai. The Central government had handed over the land at Indu Mills for the construction of the memorial when Mr. Fadnavis was the chief minister.

Only Anandraj Ambedkar, the grandson of Dr. Ambedkar, received an invitation at the last moment, while Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi leader Prakash Ambedkar was not invited to the function.

‘Build school of studies’

Speaking to reporters, later in the day, Mr. Prakash Ambedkar said he is not interested in attending the programme and an intellectual centre should come up at the site instead of a statue.

“Former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had proposed to set up an international school of studies at the Indu Mills site and the current government should stick to that plan,” Mr. Prakash Ambedkar said.

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Printable version | Oct 22, 2020 1:49:12 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/stone-laying-of-ambedkar-statue-put-off/article32644812.ece

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