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Debate over Lata Mangeshkar's memorial could end soon

'Please stop politics over the issue,' said Pandit Hridaynath Mangeshkar

lata-final-rites Lata Mangeshkar's funeral was held in Mumbai's Shivaji Park | Amey Mansabdar

The controversy over the memorial of India's Nightingale Lata Mangeshkar could end soon as the BJP, which was firm on its demand that the memorial be constructed at famous Shivaji Park ground, appears to be distancing itself from the demand first raised by one of its legislators.

The demand was raised by Ram Kadam through a letter written to Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddav Thackeray a day after the legendary singer was cremated at Shivaji Park ground with full state honours. Kadam wrote to the CM saying that a fitting memorial of Mangeshkar should be constructed at the ground famously known as the nursery of Mumbai cricket.

The demand was soon echoed by the Congress party, too, as its state president Nana Patole also made a similar request to the state government. The Congress, which is in alliance with the Shiv Sena and the NCP in the state, agreeing to a demand made by a BJP leader raised many eyebrows.

The NCP and the Shiv Sena have adopted a cautious stand on the issue and, so far, have not made any public statements on it. Shiv Sena chief Balasaheb Thackeray was cremated at the Shivaji Park ground and his memorial is coming up at the former bungalow of the Mumbai mayor, adjacent to Shivaji Park.

The demand by the BJP, however, was opposed by Raj Thackeray's Maharashtra Navnirman Sena and Advocate Prakash Ambedkar-led Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi. Both these outfits have said that the Shivaji Park ground should not be converted into a memorial park and it should remain a place where children can practice sports.

"The memorial of Lataji must be built befitting her stature. We all have spent our childhood in Shivaji Park and we need to preserve the ground which has produced legendary cricketers," said Prakash Ambedkar.

Sandeep Deshpande of the MNS opined that residents of Dadar have fought for long to preserve Shivaji Park from all sorts of encroachment. “The MNS would like to request everyone not to sacrifice Shivaji Park for petty party politics,” he said.

The Shivaji Park residents’ association had also raised its objection to the construction of a memorial there.

Environment minister Aditya Thackeray took a view that it was necessary to wait for a few days and discuss the subject with Mangeshkar’s family.

“Lata Didi was a towering figure. The demands are being made. Let five-six days pass then after discussing with the family, a memorial must be made to suit her stature. This must not be done in hurry," he was reported as saying in a local newspaper.

Mangeshkar’s family, which had kept quiet on the issue so far, has now said that they do not want a memorial of Lata Didi at Shivaji Park.

“Please stop politics over the issue of Lata Didi's memorial at Shivaji Park. Our family has not made this demand and we don't want it at Shivaji Park. We want this discussion to end immediately,” said the singer's younger brother Pandit Hridaynath Mangeshkar.

“Lata Mangeshkar had requested the Maharashtra government to start a state-of-the-art music school in Mumbai. The state government had assured her that it would act on her request. Now, the state has decided to name the music school as Lata Mangeshkar Sangeet Vidyalaya. So, this school itself will be a memorial to Lata Didi. There can be no bigger memorial to her than this,” said Pandit Hridaynath Mangeshkar.

Keshav Upadhye, chief spokesperson of Maharashtra BJP, told THE WEEK that former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis has already made the party's stand clear on the issue of the memorial. 

“There is no politics. We should all come together, involve the Mangeshkar family and build a memorial that befits the towering stature of Lata Didi,” stated Upadhye. 

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