Mayor Dattaram Dalvi stares in the face of immense opposition as over 20,000 residents of Kannamwar Nagar in the central suburb of Vikhroli have opposed his plan to construct an indoor stadium inside the spawning playground.
Despite failing on two previous occasions, Dalvi is determined to build a spectators gallery and a full-fledged indoor stadium measuring 1431 square metres on the Karmaveer Sambhaji Maidan.
This time Dalvi has managed to bring the proposal before the civic standing committee and is waiting for its approval.
The plan envisages a multipurpose hall, a pool hall, gymnasium, offices, toilets, carom room and yoga room at the cost of Rs 2.16 crore, which will be sourced from public funds.
Local residents are peeved over this move and are determined to fight to the end. They have launched signature campaigns, protest meetings and are also planning a morcha to protest against the move.
"We will not allow a single brick to be constructed on this ground. Dalvi just wants to capture the place and deprive us of the only recreation place in our colony. Where will we middle class people go if the ground is taken away from us?" asked Vijay Salvi, who heads Maidan Bachav Samitee, a committee formed to oppose the stadium construction.
Dalvi, who hails from the Shiv Sena, has accused the Congress of instigating the residents and trying to deprive them of sports facility.
"These samitee members are stooges of Congressmen who have been receiving my funding for years. They have to understand that being their councillor, I am their well wisher and my only intention is to promote sports," Dalvi said, adding that a majority of residents supported his plans.
The park is abuzz with people right from 5.30 in the morning, when the place teems with joggers and walkers. Then there are cricket coaching camps or local matches till late evening, followed by late-night walks.
Over the years, small constructions like an open-air gymkhana, a nana-nani (old couple) and children's park have come up across the ground, which has reduced the size significantly.
"Dalvi just wants to build an empire riding on public funds and this is just an effort to gain foothold. After some time, he will adopt the ground and restrict our access," claims Jagdish Nikale, secretary, Bhim Garjana Mandal, an influential group opposing the move.
More than 80 per cent residents of Kannamwar Nagar have signed a petition against the proposal.
Kannamwar Nagar, named after Maharashtra's second chief minister Marotrao Kannamwar, is one of the largest housing colonies built by the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) in 1971 for low income groups.
There are 265 buildings in this area and has been the saffron stronghold since the '90s.
Datta Dalvi is currently serving his third term.