Mumbai, (IANS) Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday travelled in an Indian Coast Guard hovercraft to perform a symbolic ‘jal-pujan’ for the proposed Rs 3,600 crore memorial of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.
The ‘Shiv Smarak’ is coming up in the Arabian Sea, around 1.5 km from the Mumbai shoreline opposite Marine Drive or Queen’s Necklace in south Mumbai.
He was accompanied by Governor C. Vidyasagar Rao, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and a select group of other dignitaries.
Descendents of the great Maratha warrior, Udayan Raje Bhosale and Sambhaji Raje Bhosale were also present as the large ICG hovercraft vroomed off from Girgaum Chowpatty on Saturday afternoon.
At the designated spot in the Arabian Sea finalised for the project, where a makeshift floating mini-replica of the proposed memorial was created for Saturday’s event, Modi poured water from a bronze vessel and threw some earth at the site to perform the ‘jal-pujan’.
Later, on return to Girgaum Chowpatty, he was welcomed by a traditional Maharashtrian band as he performed another brief ‘bhoomi pooja’ for the memorial amidst sounding of bugles and ‘tutaris’.
The Maharashtra Congress, meanwhile, strongly criticised the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena for preventing their silent, peaceful rally to protest against demonetisation here this afternoon during Modi’s visit.
Mumbai Congress President Sanjay Nirupam said in a statement that he “has been placed under house arrest by the police since Friday night” and not permitted to leave his home in Andheri.
“What is this, Prime Minister Modi? We are a democracy, this is like a Hitler-Raj… We are not allowed to even raise our grievances in a peaceful manner.
“The media is barred from meeting me and I am placed under house arrest,” Nirupam said.
In another stinging attack, Maharashtra Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant said “it is clear the BJP government appears to be extremely scared and perturbed and is unable to accept even a silent protest.”
“We condemn the step of Maharashtra government to put Nirupam under house arrest. It is a Black Day for Indian democracy… this act confirms the fact that the BJP government has a sadist and fascist mindset, which deny the citizens’ basic fundamental and constitutional right to protest peacefully,” Sawant added.
Following the ‘jal-pujan’ and ‘bhoomi-puja’ for the memorial, Modi left for Bandra Kurla Complex in central Mumbai for several other engagements and a public rally.