Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan on Monday denied having assured Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray that he would allow a public park at the Mahalaxmi Race Course.
“I did not make any assurance [at a meeting with Thackeray on Sunday],” Chavan said in reply to the Sena chief’s comment that Chavan was positive and would seek political consensus on the proposal.
The Shiv Sena has demanded that instead of renewing the Royal Western India Turf Club’s (RWITC) lease for the racecourse land, a public park be built there instead. Thackeray presented the CM with his plan for the park on Sunday.
The racecourse — an 8.55 lakh square metre-open space Schedule-W property — is owned by the government but was leased to RWITC by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). The chief minister reserves all rights to extend or scrap the lease deed.
Meanwhile, in a bid to pressurise the state government to build a park, Sena-BJP corporators carried out an inspection of alleged violations of the lease agreement by the RWITC.
Ram Barot, chairman of improvements committee in the BMC, inspected the area to check the current status of the land. While Shiv Sena and BJP corporators accompanied him on the tour, the civic administration decided not to participate.
“I was told by the municipal commissioner that officers will not be sent for the inspection as it is a political issue. He said the civic administration is not willing to get involved in the matter,” said Barot. The corporators then released a list of these alleged violations to the media.
Reacting to the list, Khushroo Dhunjibhoy, chairman, RWITC, said, “Around 90% of the breaches, which were generally minor violations, have been rectified by us. For the remaining 10%, legal issues are ongoing.” He added that the restaurants have been around for 25 years. “Nothing has been done about it. Why has it suddenly come to light now?”
As the decision on the lease lies with the state, the SenaBJP led BMC is hoping that the lease will not be renewed. If the state decides to extend the lease, the BMC will take a decision on what can be done to the 2,58,24,544 square metre (30% of the area) owned by the civic body.
“In that case, we may have to move the high court to convert the area into a park,” said a senior civic official who did not wish to be named.