The civic body’s controversial move to de-reserve the 10,000-sqft Jawaharlal Nehru garden housing the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) state headquarters has raised the hackles of citizen groups and activists.
Senior civic officials told HT the de-reservation of the plot at Nariman Point came after an express order by the public works department (PWD). Citizen groups, meanwhile, are planning to meet chief minister
Devendra Fadnavis to lodge their protest. However, if the BJP is to be believed, the ball may have been set rolling by the previous state government. PWD minister Chandrakant Patil told HT that the current BJP government had no role to play in the decision. “It must have been taken during the previous [Congress-NCP] government’s tenure. However, it is PWD’s land and hence, the prerogative on how to use it must lie with the department alone.”
The civic body said they were acting at the state government’s request. A senior civic official, not wishing to be named, said, “We received a request from the PWD to de-reserve the plot.”
The official, however, clarified that the request had come to the BMC sometime early last year.
Incidentally, the BMC’s proposed move may land it in legal trouble. The de-reservation goes against last year’s order that specifically said that a civic body could not delete an unacquired reservation while revising the development plan.
The PWD owns the garden, which houses the offices of the BJP, the Janata Dal (Secular) and the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC). The space had been allocated temporarily by the PWD to the two parties in the 1980s.
In June 2013, HT had reported that residents found the BJP had made illegal alterations and additions to their office. The PWD had then said it will open the rest of the garden up for residents. Locals, who are fighting to reclaim the public space, are furious. They had petitioned the Bombay high court demanding that the parties be evicted out of the garden.
“It is disturbing see that even while the legal proceedings are on, the BMC is attempting to snatch away this open space from the residents,” said Atul Kumar from the Nariman Point Churchgate Citizens Association. “We have a hearing in the PIL this Friday. We are planning to meet the CM and show our protest. We are also consulting our legal team on the next step.”