Ambedkar memorial could be finished in 2 yrs: Sharad Pawar

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NCP president Sharad Pawar at the Ambedkar memorial site at Indu Mill in Mumbai on Tuesday. (Photo: Prashant Nadkar)

NCP President Sharad Pawar on Tuesday said the Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar memorial, set to come up at the erstwhile Indu Mill in Dadar, could be completed in the next two years. He made the statement after a visit to the memorial site on Tuesday as part of NCP’s Dalit outreach programme.

“It is possible that work on the project could be completed in two years,” Pawar said after reviewing the project along with Social Justice Minister Dhananjay Munde and Minority Affairs Minister Nawab Malik.

The memorial, coming up on a 12-acre plot, had initially proposed a 350-foot high statute of Ambedkar. The height has now been increased to 450 foot by the Shiv Sena-led state government. The memorial would include a library, a replica of the historic Chavdar pond in Raigad, a number of viewing points and a parking lot. The current cost of the project is around Rs 1,000 crore — substantially higher than December 2017 estimates of Rs 709 crore.

“So far, 25 per cent of the work has been completed. The work is being undertaken by an international company and this memorial would be a major attraction in Maharashtra,” Pawar said.

Pawar’s visit to the site is being seen as part of NCP’s attempts to break the perception that it was largely a Maratha-centric party. The visit was one of the many such moves that the NCP has made since the 2019 Lok Sabha elections to reach out to the state’s 13 per cent politically active Dalit community.

“Traditionally, Dalits and neo-Buddhists have been with the NCP. However, in the recent past, they have joined the Prakash Ambedkar-led Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi. We will have to redraft our strategy to bring back these people into the NCP fold,” Pawar had said after the Lok Sabha elections. Soon after the 2019 state elections results were announced, he had given a very public call to his party workers that NCP needed to reach out to Dalits and neo-Buddhists.

After having managed to dethrone the BJP and stitch up an unlikely alliance between Congress, NCP and Sena, the NCP leadership seems to have gone on a major Dalit outreach programme. Soon after he took over as the Deputy Chief Minister, NCP’s Ajit Pawar, made one of his early official visits to Bhima Koregaon — a rallying point for Dalit activism. He had also visited Chaityabhoomi and reviewed the Dr Ambedkar memorial project.

The NCP is also being seen as the driving force behind the decision take by the state Cabinet last week to increase the height of Ambedkar’s statue by 100 feet. The party, which is controls the state housing department, had through Housing Minister Jitendra Awhad also announced that the places where prominent Dalit icons Dr Babsaheb Ambedkar and Annabhau Sathe stayed in Mumbai would be converted into memorials.