Mumbai: In the last 14 months that it has been in power, Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray-led Maharashtra government has been on a spree of naming several of its schemes and projects after party founder Bal Thackeray.
The administration has named at least three schemes and certain showpiece projects after Bal Thackeray. Some of these were considered pet projects of former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis.
Besides, for the first time, the names of Bal Thackeray and his father, Keshav Thackeray, have also been included in the official list of eminent personalities whose birthday anniversaries are celebrated by the state government.
The state’s general administration department, which Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray holds, published a government resolution with the list earlier this month.
Based on the resolution, the Maharashtra government officially commemorated Bal Thackeray’s 95th birth anniversary Saturday morning by putting a flower garland in front of his photograph, while CM Thackeray will inaugurate the leader’s first-ever statue in Mumbai, the Shiv Sena’s home turf and birth place, at Colaba in the evening.
The Shiv Sena said they named schemes and projects after Bal Thackeray only after taking approval of the cabinet, which has representatives of all the three parties — NCP, Sena and Congress.
Ally Congress, however, said though the party recognises Bal Thackeray’s contribution in Maharashtra, “Shiv Sena leaders at times overdo it in their enthusiasm”.
NCP, meanwhile, said the party has no issues with schemes and projects being named after Bal Thackeray.
Schemes and projects in Bal Thackeray’s name
One of the first cabinet decisions of the MVA government after coming to power was to rename the under-construction Mumbai-Nagpur expressway as ‘Hindu Hruday Samrat Balasaheb Thackeray Maharashtra Samruddhi Mahamarg’.
The expressway, which was one of former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis’ pet initiatives, was earlier just called the ‘Samruddhi Mahamarg’.
State Urban Development Minister Eknath Shinde had said that the cabinet, comprising ministers from all three parties, had unanimously approved the decision.
Similarly, earlier this week, the state government issued a government resolution to rename Nagpur’s Gorewada Zoo as ‘Balasaheb Thackeray Zoological Park’. The international zoo project was also initiated by the former BJP-led government.
Urban Development Minister Shinde, a senior Shiv Sena leader, has also demanded that the proposed Navi Mumbai airport be named after Bal Thackeray.
The state government has also given a handful of schemes the Shiv Sena founder’s name.
In January 2020, the cabinet approved the implementation of a Rs 2,100-crore scheme for Vidarbha and Marathwada regions for agri-business and rural transformation. Subsequently, the state government also decided to name this project, which was also originally conceptualised under the former Fadnavis government, after Bal Thackeray.
Some of the other schemes named after the Shiv Sena founder include a ‘Balasaheb Thackeray Accident Insurance scheme’ to provide timely treatment to accident victims so that fatalities reduce. This scheme, too, was first proposed by the Fadnavis government, in which the Shiv Sena was a junior partner.
The state cabinet had approved it in 2016, but it could not move forward due to fund issues and conflicting schemes of the Centre.
In October last year, the state government also named an existing scheme to grant property tax waiver to ex-servicemen and their widows residing permanently in Maharashtra after Bal Thackeray.
‘It’s all by consensus but there should be a check’
The MVA government comprises the Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Congress.
Congress leader Sanjay Nirupam said his party recognises Bal Thackeray’s prominence and contribution in Maharashtra, but Shiv Sena needs to keep its naming spree in check.
“Balasaheb is the supreme leader of the Shiv Sena and his contribution should be recognised. But, his name should be given only to some very important schemes and projects, otherwise it loses its meaning. Shiv Sena leaders at times overdo it in their enthusiasm,” Nirupam said.
Maharashtra Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant said, “Most of these schemes and projects fall under departments held by Shiv Sena ministers. It’s a coalition government. If they want to give their leader’s name, as per coalition dharma nobody opposes.”
“Similarly, if a Congress minister wants to name a scheme or project after some leader or as per the ideology of Congress, nobody will oppose that either,” he added.
NCP Mumbai president Nawab Malik, also a minister in the Uddhav Thackeray-led cabinet, said his party has no issues with schemes and projects being named after Bal Thackeray.
“Every decision is taken unanimously. There are no differences. A few schemes were named after Balasaheb Thackeray during the previous government too,” Malik said, adding that the MVA government has also named a scheme after NCP president Sharad Pawar.
The state government had named a rural development scheme after Pawar in the run-up to his 80th birthday in December last year.
In use of the words ‘Hindu Hruday Samrat’ before Bal Thackeray’s name in the official title of the Mumbai-Nagpur expressway too does not bother the NCP or Congress.
Malik as well as Sawant said Hindu Hruday Samrat is seen as a widely accepted title for the leader and does not reflect on the project.
Meanwhile, Shiv Sena MLA Sunil Prabhu said, “We have named schemes and projects after Balasaheb, but only after taking the approval of the cabinet, where all parties in the government have representatives. Nobody has had any objections.”