It's a double whammy for the Congress in the city. After failing to gain power in the city's civic body, the party's Mumbai Region Congress Committee (MRCC) is now facing some serious cash trouble.
The MRCC has been asked to pay up its rent dues, a whopping Rs 90 lakh, for its Azad Maidan office to the state government. It received the bill after Krantikari Jaihin Sena, a local party, moved the Bombay High Court against the state government's refusal to allot it office premises in South Mumbai. The court has also asked the state to furnish details of the eviction process and explain by February 14 the policy for allotment of office spaces to parties.
But party sources say arranging such a huge amount at such a short notice is a taxing task considering the recent polls have nearly emptied the party's coffers. "We are in a fix. I don't know where the money will come from," said a senior MRCC office bearer on condition of anonymity.
The current committee members also feel the court order puts undue pressure on them because the dues have been pending since 1980, at which time most of them did not hold executive posts in the party.
State Advocate General Ravi Kadam told the court on Wednesday that the Public Works Department (PWD) had served eviction notices to the party units following the default. However, MRCC general secretary and administration in-charge, Amarjeet Singh Manhas, denied MRCC had received any such notice.
On its part, MRCC paid a part of the pending dues 45 days ago but now has few resources to pay the remaining amount. "We have already paid Rs 10 lakh. We are ready to pay the remaining amount in installments as approved by the honourable High Court. But it's true that we cannot pay the amount at one go," Manhas told HT on Thursday.
However, before the MRCC clears the dues, it wants the PWD to resolve a dispute over payment of rent for a permanent shelter that MRCC constructed a few years ago outside the Azad Maidan office.
Manhas said MRCC would not pay for the 1,400-sq ft shed because most other political parties used the area. "Its improper for PWD to charge us for the facility being used by others. We want the state government to settle the issue," he said.
PWD's Town Ward Executive Engineer Anil Gaikwad confirmed receiving an MRCC letter to the effect. "I will forward the letter to the government as I am not authorised to take any decision."