Almost a year after an akhanda jyoti was inaugurated at Mumbai’s Shivaji Park to remember deceased Shiv Sena leader Balasaheb Thackeray, the Shiv Sena has finally found an easy target to fund it — Bharat Petroleum. The party was already in a spot for making the Mumbai municipal corporation spend public money on its upkeep. And it doesn’t come cheap. The Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) spends Rs 12 lakh annually to finance the gas supply to ensure the continuous burning of the flame. Now, a wave of political opportunism has created uproar in the city with the opposition crying foul about the move.
This week, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis dedicated Bharat Petroleum’s Mumbai refinery’s Crude Distillation Unit to the nation. During the ceremony, he was accompanied by not just the Union Minister of State for Petroleum and Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan, but also by prominent Shiv Sena leaders like Rahul Shewale, Gajanan Kirtikar and Prakash Phatarpekar.
Soon after the inauguration, Fadnavis said, “While we were sitting here, Rahul Shewaleji got an idea. As per that, we requested Bharat Petroleum to bear the cost of maintaining the akhanda jyoti at the Balasaheb’s memorial. Union minister Dharmendra Pradhanji has very graciously accepted Rahul Shewale’s idea.” The idea of constructing an akhanda jyoti at the memorial, too, was that of Shiv Sena MP Rahul Shewale.
Bharat Petroleum (BP) will now spend Rs 12 lakh annually from its Corporate Social Responsibility Fund. However, the move has come under scathing attack from the opposition.
“This is gross misuse of Corporate Social Responsibility. How is this a CSR activity?” asked NCP leader Nawab Malik. He asked that while the Central government was cutting down on LPG subsidy to anyone whose income was above Rs 10 lakh, why was it spending Rs 12 lakh on this? “Why cannot the Shiv Sena fund for its own idea?” he asked.
Congress leader Narayan Rane, once a Shiv Sainik himself, didn’t mince any words either. “If you look at the net worth of each office bearer of Shiv Sena, each one can individually foot the bill without any problem. If they had originally proposed the idea, they should also fund it. Why make others put in their money on your idea when you can easily fund it? Why don’t they want to finance something so important for their leader who founded the party?” he asked.
He also questioned the Sena’s move to write to the MCGM to finance the akhanda jyoti on the memorial. “That party has nothing to do with people’s welfare anymore. It only wants to usurp all the public funds for its interest,” he said. The MCGM is governed by the Shiv Sena. Before making BP pay for the flame, the Sena had conveniently used the public coffers of Mumbai municipal corporation to finance it at the iconic Shivaji Park area.