MUMBAI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi today laid the foundation stone for the Rs. 3,600 crore grand memorial of Maratha warrior king Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj on board a hovercraft in the Arabian Sea off Mumbai coast. The main feature of the Shivaji memorial will be a 192-metre-tall statue of the iconic Maratha king. The site is a rocky outcrop, roughly 1.5 km from the Raj Bhavan shore. Once complete, the statue will be more than twice the height of the Statue of Liberty. The project is expected to be completed by 2019. Along with PM Modi, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, BJP ally Shiv Sena’s chief Uddhav Thackeray and Governor Vidyasagar Rao were also present on board the hovercraft. The PM also inspected a float depicting Shivaji Maharaj’s coronation.
Later, in Mumbai, the PM praised Shivaji Maharaj and said, “Even in the midst of struggle, Shivaji Maharaj remained a torchbearer of good governance… His courage was known but there are so many more aspects of Shivaji Maharaj we must know about. Look at his policies on water, finance.” The Prime Minister’s visit assumes political significance as the high-stake elections to Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) are just a few months away. Mr Fadnavis had recently said the ‘Shiv Smarak’ will not only be the tallest memorial in the country, but in the entire world and had thanked PM Modi for “making it possible.” The memorial project has been facing stiff opposition from fishermen and environmentalists, who have alleged that it would affect marine life and ecology of the Arabian Sea. The fishermen community leaders, however, decided not to protest further after meeting Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who assured them that their concerns will be addressed. By midday Saturday, some 25,900 people had signed a Change.org petition asking that the government spend the money on infrastructure and development instead. “Apart from a waste of money, this statue is going to be terrible for the environment, for the traffic situation in South Bombay and a security nightmare,” the petition says. The Prime Minister on a day-long visit to Maharashtra also visited Pune, where he lay the foundation stone of the first phase of the Pune Metro Rail project at the Agriculture College ground. He addressed the crowd at the event while sharing the stage with NCP leader Sharad Pawar.