In the backdrop of the Shiv Sena’s aggressive agenda to build a garden followed by a memorial of deceased party patriarch Bal Thackeray at the Mahalaxmi Racecourse after the impending expiry of its lease with the BMC, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan held a meeting with the state administration.
According to sources, the CM summoned officials of the state revenue and the urban development departments along with senior officials from the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and Mumbai city collectorate. During the meeting, he was informed on the status of the land, which is with the BMC. The entire 8,55,198-sq m plot is with the civic body and hardly anything with the state government, the CM was told.
Of the 8,55,198 sq m, 5,96,953 sq m, in Lower Parel division, was transferred to BMC by the Bombay Improvement Trust (BIT) after the formation of the corporation. The remaining 2,58,245 sq m is owned by BMC and was given to the Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC) on lease. It was transferred
to RWITC only after thestate’s approval to the lease agreement. Sources say the improvements committee of the BMC gives extension to the land transferred by BIT after every 10 years.
If the BMC refuses to extend the lease agreement, which expires at the end of this month, no further decision can be taken without the permission of the state government, the CM has been told. The piece of land has been categorised as a recreation ground (RG) but any activity other than that of the racecourse’s will require the state’s permission, say officials. Incidentally, the state earns a few crores every year through the betting tax on the races. The tax is being recovered by the home department and used for charity purposes.
Even if the lease is terminated, the matter may reach court where it would be difficult to justify the decision not to renew it, it is being argued by the administration. The civic body has in the past raised objections to the restaurants on the course and the matter even went to court. A few years ago, say sources, then revenue minister Narayan Rane had recommended action against the Turf Club for a number of violations. He is said to have passed an order for termination of the lease agreement but the papers concerned are not traceable, said an official. Narayan Rane could not be contacted for comment as he was touring his home district Sindhudurg.