The reported proposal for shifting the 210-acre Mahalaxmi racecourse to the Mulund dumping yard will not be taken up for implementation till the BMC elections are held.
There is tremendous resistance to the move from a large number of local residents and the BJP risks losing their votes in the civic polls if it goes ahead with the proposal.
The BMC is now under administrator Iqbal Singh Chahal, who reports to the Urban Development Department of the State Government. It is learnt that both Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis are keen on not alienating the local residents.
About 8.15 sqmt of the racecourse is owned by the BMC and the rest by the State Government. An overwhelming number of BJP cadres in the city want the proposal to be put on hold till the polls are over. Vivekananda Gupta, lawyer and BJP leader, said the creation of a theme park in the place of the racecourse will not deprive citizens of their walking space. “However, it is for the party chief Ashish Shelar and others to take a call on the issue,” he added.
Vivek Jain, the ex-Chairman of the Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC), said the racing season is spread over only 24 days in a year. “Thousands of people use it daily and I am not surprised that there is resistance from them to the shifting,” he told the Free Press Journal. He said a public interest litigation may be initiated if the government and the BMC go ahead with the proposed move.
According to reports, the Mulund garbage dumping yard, which is spread over 24 hectares, will be converted into a racing track after buying additional land from a private party. The move to buy private land has been stoutly opposed by the Congress and the Samajwadi Party.
Former leaders of the opposition in the BMC, Ravi Raja of the Congress and Rais Shaikh of the Samajwadi Party, said the taxpayers’ money should not be used to buy land for an elite sport like horse racing.
The Congress and other parties are likely to make a big election issue of the proposal to shift if the BJP goes ahead with it. The lease of the land given to RWITC has lapsed and the BMC is keen on converting the racecourse into a theme park.
Shiv Sena leader Aditya Thackeray wants a New York Central Park type area to be created at the racecourse, which will be open to all citizens.