Shivaji Park, where cricketing greats Sachin Tendulkar and Ravi Shastri first began perfecting their cricket, is becoming a casualty in the crossfire of politics.
Its Rs 7-crore beautification has turned into a slugfest between the Shiv Sena, which is pushing for the plan, opposed by the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena and the Congress.
The bone of contention is a set of murals to be constructed at the entrance near a statue of Meenatai Thackeray, wife of Sena chief Bal Thackeray.
“How can you force anything through without the consent of the locals,” asked MNS leader Sandeep Deshpande. “The proposed murals will only shorten the entrance, and can be disastrous in case of any untoward incident,” he added.
The Sena has stuck to its guns and said work will continue. “Whenever you do some good work, there is bound to be opposition. We will never undertake any activity to cause problems to anyone, which is why we’ve ruled the BMC for 15 years,” said Milind Vaidya, Sena leader and former mayor.
“If the murals are not constructed here, then where else?” he added.
The Congress has alleged the Sena and the MNS are playing politics in the name of Chhatrapati Shivaji.
“There is a permit room operating on the ground and revellers drink alcohol openly there, but both the parties have not done anything to stop it so far,” said Ajit Sawant, Congress leader.
The residents insist they do not want to politicise the issue. “Just leave the ground as it is,” said Sheela Desai, former trustee, Vanita Samaj, a social organisation working for women, and called it a waste of public money.
Girish Raut, secretary, Shivaji Park Vigilance Committee, said the citizens are opposed to
any concrete construction in the place.
“Instead of such murals, the BMC should concentrate its resources on reviving the three wells there and improve its green cover,” said Raut.
The committee has also petitioned Municipal Commissioner Swadheen Kshatriya to stop the work.