Curious onlookers stopped to click pictures of the freshly painted signboard outside the Prime Minister’s residence reading ‘7 Lok Kalyan Marg’, earlier known as ‘7 Race Course Road’, on Thursday.
The security at the PM’s residence gates was tight and onlookers were immediately shooed away. “This is a high security zone. Since morning people have been coming here to find out about the board with the new name. Cars slow down and pedestrians stop to look at it,” a security official said.
The only mention of the old name is seen on a two-foot tall sandstone at the exit at the Teen Murti Marg. “This is engraved in stone. They will either replace the stone or let this be. Anyway, not a lot of people cross this road,” a security official said.
Jockeys and visitors of the Delhi Race Course are not perturbed by the name change. The sprawling 12-acre PM’s residence complex is connected by the kilometre-long road, which was named after the race course during the British rule.
They said renaming the road will not affect the iconic race ground, established in the 1940s — much before the bungalow became the official residence of the PM. It was in 1984, after then PM Rajiv Gandhi started living in the residence that it was declared as the formal residence of the PM of India.
Like England’s 10-Downing Street, the official residence of the British Prime Minister, 7-RCR Road has always been associated with the seat of power.
“The Delhi Race Course is among the most prestigious landmarks of the Capital. It was this road which acquired its name after the club, not the other way around,” said JS Shekhawat, also known as ‘Bunty’, a jockey at the race course.
Some, however, felt that this was belittling the importance of the institution.
“The name change implies that the Delhi Race Course does not deserve a road named after it. The complex has been the Mecca for horse race and polo enthusiasts and has much more relevance compared to ‘Lok Kalyan’ which is just absurd,” said Dhyanvir Singh, a horse race enthusiast.
The compound also has the Jaipur Polo Grounds where thousands of polo enthusiasts gather during matches.
“We consider ourselves lucky to get the opportunity to play at the grounds which is located at the heart of the national capital. The place has so much history attached to it the grounds that a name change will not affect it,” Col Virk said.