Even as the lease for the 211-acre Mahalaxmi race course land expired on Friday and the Shiv Sena’s demands for a public garden on the land got louder, the state and the civic body is not likely to evict the Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC).
While the civic body is yet to send its report on the lease to the state, there are strong indications that the RWITC will get its lease renewed. The decision on the fate of the lease rests on two people — civic chief Sitaram Kunte and chief minister Prithviraj Chavan. Sources close to both said they are firmly against giving in to the Sena’s demands.
Highly-placed sources said that suspicion of the Sena intending to use the plot to build a memorial for late party chief Bal Thackeray runs high in civic and state circles. “After the party went back on its word on vacating Shivaji Park immediately after Thackeray’s funeral, we are very cynical about the real reasons behind their demand for the plot,” said a source.
Civic officials, too, seemed inclined to retain the race course as a feature of the city. “It has become a part of the city’s character and its ethos. Using it as a park and to house a memorial for Thackeray will rob it of its identity,” said a senior civic official.