The proposal to redevelop the 46-year-old Mantralaya building is likely to be revived in the wake of Thursday’s fire, which gutted four of the floors.
Sharad Pawar, former chief minister and Nationalist Congress Party president, has recommended to Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan that the state government take up the redevelopment project at the earliest. At a meeting with Chavan and senior ministers on Friday, he also suggested that the state government construct it and not involve a private party.
“I spoke to experts at the National Disaster Management Authority in New Delhi. They told me that any building where a big fire rages for more than six hours develops structural damage. It will not be advisable to work in such buildings because of safety reasons,” Pawar told the media on Friday.
Chavan welcomed Pawar’s suggestion, but said he would wait for the structural audit report before arriving at any conclusion.
“We will definitely reconstruct the building once experts report it as unsafe,” he said.
Pawar’s suggestion that private builders be kept away from the Mantralaya makeover assumes significance as the allies, the Congress and the NCP, have been involved in a tussle for the past five years over the issue of privatisation.
In April 2010, then CM Ashok Chavan had scrapped a Rs 1,200-crore proposal by public works department minister Chhagan Bhujbal, who is from the NCP, to redevelop Mantralaya through private builders following allegations of irregularity.
He then had wanted the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority to redevelop Mantralaya as part of its Nariman Point makeover plan.
A senior Mantralaya official said the building was constructed for Rs 55, but is now valued at around Rs 450 crore.
As per Bhujbal’s proposal, the Mantralaya building, the new administrative building and the new Vidhan Bhavan were to be upgraded.
A subway was to connect all three buildings. The ministerial quarters opposite Mantralaya were to make way for six towers of 30 floors each for housing ministers, high court judges and bureaucrats.
It also had plans to construct a 90-room legislators’ hostel, a 53-room rest house for state guests and a 750-seater auditorium in the vicinity.
The barrack-type party offices were to be demolished for new offices. The developer was to get a portion of prime Nariman Point land to exploit commercially.