While the ruling Shiv Sena may have asked the civic body to take back the 225-acre Mahalaxmi racecourse plot, the task won’t be easy since though it holds the lease, about two-thirds of the land is owned by the state government.
This means no matter what the Brihamumbai Municipal Corporation decides, it is the state which will have the veto power in deciding what happens with the lease.
The plot is one of the few schedule W properties, which are owned by the state and whose initial leases are granted by it, but are later entrusted to the BMC for giving further leases.
“The civic chief will only be able to forward his recommendation to the state, which will have the final say,” said a civic body insider dealing with the issue.
This revelation comes amidst speculations of a possible attempt by the Sena to take back the land to construct a memorial for its late chief Bal Thackeray.
Another obstacle that might come in its way is the fact that the plot is designated as a recreation ground in the city’s development plan, which means there will be a 15% cap on construction on the plot.
“The RWITC (Royal Western India Turf Club, which holds the lease) has already made some construction on the plot. Hence, it will have to be seen whether any more can be permitted,” said a civic official.
Another hurdle for the memorial could be that a large part of the racecourse also falls under the coastal regulation zone II, which then gets classified as a no- development zone according to the ministry of environment and forest guidelines.
IPS officer turned lawyer YP Singh has opposed the lease renewal and the memorial plan.
“RWITC has violated many conditions of the lease and hence it should not be renewed. Even talks of a memorial are wrong since the plot is an open space which needs to be reserved only for public good and inclusive use.”
Meanwhile, former chief information officer Shailesh Gandhi has written a letter to civic chief Sitaram Kunte demanding the BMC invite bids and the rent be charged at market rate.