The Congress high command in New Delhi is furious with chief minister (CM) Prithviraj Chavan for allowing Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray to be cremated with state honours at Shivaji Park.
Thackeray passed away last Saturday. His funeral at Shivaji Park was the first on a public ground since Independence.
Sources in the state told DNA that the Congress high command believes the decision to allow a state funeral for Thackeray was uncalled for and sent a wrong message to the public. “That is the reason why no top Congress leader from Delhi attended the funeral. PM Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi only issued condolence messages,” a source said.
A Congress minister said Chavan convinced the high command that the decision was taken keeping public sentiments in mind and was unavoidable. Besides, the Shiv Sena went ahead and announced that the funeral will be held at Shivaji Park before seeking government permission, a Congress leader told DNA. “Sanjay Raut announced the venue for the funeral at 5pm, hours after Thackeray’s death while the letter seeking permission (written by Raut and mayor Sunil Prabhu) was sent to the government at 11pm,” he said.
“Chavan had a meeting with two ministers at 9.30am on Sunday on the issue, but by then it was too late. He could not have refused permission as lakhs of Sena workers had flocked for the funeral by then,” the minister said.
The high command’s discontent has given strength to the anti-Chavan faction in the state. It is now busy convincing the powers-that-be in Delhi that Chavan’s decision indicates proximity between him and Shiv Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray. Nationalist Congress Party spokesperson Nawab Malik said: “The chief minister is following ‘Rajdharma’ or ‘Mitradarma’ by doing favours to the Shiv Sena.”
Uddhav reportedly requested Chavan for the state funeral as well as state mourning. Chavan did not accede to his second request.
Congress ministers said Chavan had no choice. “By demolishing the fencing wall of the crematorium, which is on the seashore at Shivaji Park, the chief minister was making arrangements for the massive crowd that attended the funeral. The government had no option but to accept the request otherwise it would have led to a law and order problem, ” a source said.