BJP's oath-taking function will spoil Wankhede stadium: MCA official

Mumbai Cricket Association’s maidan secretary Nadeem Memon lashes out at the BJP’s decision to host the swearing-in ceremony of the Chief Minister and his Cabinet at Wankhede stadium on Friday

Why should an international cricket stadium be used for a political event when there are other grounds available? This is the question Nadeem Memon, maidan secretary of Mumbai Cricket Association and former curator of Wankhede Stadium, is posing to the BJP, after learning that the ground will be the venue for the oath-taking ceremony of the new BJP-led government.

Also read: Where will the BJP CM take oath?

MCA CEO C S Naik (left) takes a round of the stadium with city BJP chief Ashish Shelar and other BJP leaders yesterday. Pics/Pradeep Dhivar
MCA CEO C S Naik (left) takes a round of the stadium with city BJP chief Ashish Shelar and other BJP leaders yesterday. Pics/Pradeep Dhivar

The ceremony is tentatively slated for October 31, Friday, when the new chief minister of the state, along with his cabinet, shall be sworn in at the stadium. Memon contends that organising the function in the ground will undo years of toil and hard work that were put in to bring the stadium up to international standards.

Nadeem Memon, seen in a file picture when he was the curator of Wankhede stadium
Nadeem Memon, seen in a file picture when he was the curator of Wankhede stadium

Potential damage
Wankhede’s turf has been laid upon sand, and keeping chairs, sofas and other seating arrangements on it will lead to small craters being formed on the ground. Repairing them will take at least 20 days, that, too, on a war footing, Memon explained.

BJP’s city leaders discussing the details of the swearing-in ceremony at Wankhede stadium
BJP’s city leaders discussing the details of the swearing-in ceremony at Wankhede stadium

He also added that due to the function, important practice matches for the Ranji Trophy and Under-19 have to be shifted to the MCA ground in BKC, which is already crowded with Under-16, Under-14 and women’s teams’ matches. Moreover, Memon claimed an annual MCA awards ceremony scheduled for November 1 had to also be postponed.

Krishna Prakash, additional commissioner of police
Krishna Prakash, additional commissioner of police

“My only issue is, why is an international ground being used for a swearing-in ceremony when other options are available? They can do it at MMRDA ground in Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC).

Party workers will put all kinds of chairs and sofas. What if the ground is damaged? It’s very difficult to make an international-level ground and Wankhede has never been used for political purposes before. Why now? Why are politicians hell-bent on organising it here?” Memon questioned.

He recalled that, in the year 2007, post India’s victory in the Twenty20 World Cup, there had been objections to Sharad Pawar using the ground for the celebration ceremony. Memon claimed that they had received assurances, saying the pitches would be cordoned off.

Yet, people ran all over the pitches and the ground. Memon claims politicians are dictating the terms now. The BJP’s ceremony is set to be attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP party chief Amit Shah and other top brass of the party.

“I will request the Governor not to hold the function here, and, instead, ask him to take it somewhere else. Wankhede has a capacity of only 35,000 while Chowpatty can accommodate nearly 1 lakh. Why not go there? If Modi is going to do this, then what else do I say?” Memon wondered.

Security measures
B K Upadhyay, joint commissioner of police (traffic), said, “We have made parking arrangements near Vidhan Bhavan, Grant Medical College, M K Road and M G Road. Further traffic restrictions would be imposed due to VIP movement from the airport to Marine Lines.”

BJP speak
Niranjan Shetty, the BJP chief spokesperson for Mumbai, claimed that the party decided the venue, but the government is organising the function. “We are hopeful that all required permissions and precautions will be taken for the maintenance and safety of the ground,” he said.

Big plans
Below the Garware Pavillion, an enclosure — a sort of stage — for the PM, union ministers and other top BJP leaders will be created. The Governor and the new CM shall be seated adjacent to this enclosure, and to the left of the CM and Governor will be the state ministerial cabinet.

In front of this stage shall be seated nearly 2,000 VVIPs which will include politicians, industrialists, Bollywood celebrities and other dignitaries. The party also plans to send out open invitations to nearly 35,000 to 40,000 people for the ceremony.

Ground reality
This is not the first time a stadium is being used for a swearing-in ceremony. 
>> Haryana’s new BJP CM Manohar Lal Khattar shall take his oath at Tau Devi Lal stadium in Panchkula
>> Karnataka CM, Congress’ Siddaramaiah was sworn in at the Kanteerava Stadium in Bangalore in 2013
>> M Karunanidhi took oath in 2006 as Tamil Nadu CM at Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium in Chennai

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