‘No permission needed’: Shiv Sena unveils Shivaji statue outside airport

Shiv Sena unveils Shivaji statue outside airport

The move has been termed a political stunt by other parties.

Shiv Sena MLC Anil Parab and a group of Shiv Sena members Saturday took it upon themselves to unveil the 6-feet-tall, bronze statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji outside the Mumbai airport to protest against the alleged delay in organising an opening ceremony. The move has been termed a political stunt by other parties.

On Saturday, the GVK Group’s Mumbai International Airport Ltd (MIAL), which runs the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, was caught by surprise when the statue was unveiled by a local division of the Shiv Sena. Parab, who took the veil off the statue, said it was to protect the “pride of Maharashtra”

The incident, officials claimed, took place in the early hours of the day. Some unidentified persons trespassed the airport property, climbed the scaffolding around the statue and removed the cover, they said. When contacted, Parab said the statue was under his “ruling jurisdiction” and he did not need permission to uncover it. “In the past one month I have personally contacted senior officials at the airport, but there has been no response.

Dust collected on the sheets which covered Maharaj’s face. It’s not acceptable. We uncovered the statue and bathed it with water. We performed a small pooja, drew rangoli, and finally, garlanded him. It started at 11.30 in the morning. I had called all our party workers and at least 100 to 200 people guaranteed their presence,” said Parab. “Now the statue is open for everyone to see. There is no need for any unveiling again,” he added.

The statue stands on Sahar Road, near the Western Express Highway, and can be seen before one takes the elevated road to terminal 2 of the Mumbai airport, named after the warrior king. An official claimed that meticulous research had been undertaken before making the statue. An official, privy to the design, said that while most popular Shivaji statues in the state showed the Maratha king on a horse, this one showed him in a standing posture with a sword in hand.

The statue was sculpted by Pune-based Jayprakash Shirgaonkar. Minutes after the “unveiling”, Congress ex-MLA Krishna Hegde sent out a press statement, saying it was a political stunt. He alleged that the MIAL had not been keen to install the statue and the ruling party did not inaugurate it, though the statue had been completed several months ago. “Now, they are planning a game of political upmanship as the BMC elections are fast approaching,” said Hegde.

MIAL doesn’t consider the unveiling as “official”, but a spokeswoman for the airport said “no comments” to all questions, when contacted.