Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray today took part in rituals marking the start of construction of a memorial for Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray.
The move assumes significance as the Shiv Sena, an ally of the BJP at the Centre and in Maharashtra, has been at loggerheads with its senior partner and critical of various policies of the government.
The Maharashtra Cabinet on Tuesday approved Rs 100 crore for the construction of the Thackeray memorial, a move seen as an attempt to reach out to the ally ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.
On the occasion of the 93rd birth anniversary of Bal Thackeray today, Mr Fadnavis and Mr Thackeray conducted the 'Ganesh pujan' (offering prayers to Lord Ganesh) and 'vastu pujan' at the memorial site, located at Shivaji Park at Dadar in central Mumbai.
The land earmarked for the memorial was officially transferred by the city civic body to the trust set up to oversee the structure's construction.
The prime sea-facing property built in 1928, measuring around 11,500 sq m, currently houses Mumbai mayor's bungalow.
A number of BJP and Shiv Sena leaders, city Mayor Vishwanath Mahadeshwar, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) chief Ajoy Mehta and members of 'Balasaheb Thackeray Rashtriya Smarak Nyas' (trust), including BJP leader Poonam Mahajan, were present at the event.
Mr Fadnavis and Mr Thackeray were seen shaking hands and exchanging pleasantries.
A Shiv Sena leader, present at the event, said both the leaders had a brief meeting over tea. "However, there were no political discussions," he said.
"The chief minister and other BJP leaders were very comfortable in the presence of Uddhavji and his family. It did not seem to be an event that had leaders of two parties but (appeared) as if between members of one family," he said.
The construction of the memorial is expected to begin from next month.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to be invited for the formal 'bhoomi pujan' ceremony, a source said.
Meanwhile, the Shiv Sena, in its editorial in party mouthpiece 'Saamana', continued its anti-BJP tirade, saying Bal Thackeray was of the view that only 'Hindutva' can save the country and this thought of his led the BJP to come to power.
"The present condition and the path of the country is not right. Today, the nation needs to be ruled by 'men'. Even today, borders are being attacked by Pakistanis, soldiers are dying in Kashmir, however, we are showing our 'josh' (enthusiasm) by taking credit for surgical strike," it said.
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