The Marine Drive open-air gym in C ward is now part of a political tug of war, with Congress MLA Nitesh Rane questioning why it was restored if no permissions are in place; Shiv Sena leaders see ‘BJP’s hand’ behind the fiasco
The recently inaugurated open-air gym has turned into a political battleground, with a Congress MLA throwing his hat into the ring.
Congress MLA Nitesh Rane claims the municipal commissioner told him the gym had no permissions. File pic
The gym already caused a major embarrassment for the Shiv Sena, when the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), which the Sena rules, dismantled it a day after Yuva Sena chief Aaditya Thackeray had inaugurated it. While Congress MLA Nitesh Rane has called for the gym to be removed completely, a Shiv Sena leader blamed the BJP for the fiasco.
mid-day had reported yesterday that Aaditya Thackeray had, in a common ceremony, inaugurated two open-air gyms on Marine Drive one opposite Kapoor Mansion in A ward, and another opposite Hindu Gymkhana in C ward. It was the latter which got embroiled in controversy when the C ward officer had it torn down, stating that no permissions had been taken to set up such a facility.
Thackeray had inaugurated the gym near Kapoor mansion but has lent his support to both. While BMC Standing Committee Chairman Yashodhar Phanse, from the Shiv Sena, had claimed they had all the permissions in place, C ward officer Sangeeta Hasnale had told mid-day that permission was valid only for the A ward and not C ward.
Nonetheless, the BMC restored the equipment within hours of removing it on the condition that permissions be sought. Hasnale reiterated to mid-day on Friday that the BMC had not given permission for the gym and that it should be sought within a week.
The gym has now become a political matter with the Congress stepping in. Congress MLA Nitesh Rane, son of former CM Narayan Rane, met the municipal commissioner yesterday.
Rane claims the commissioner specifically told him the BMC had not permitted the gym to be set up in C ward. “When I asked the commissioner why the BMC restored the gym if there were no permissions for it, he just laughed. If the BMC does not act in the next few days, then I am efficient and capable enough of uprooting it,” said Rane.
The Shiv Sena, on the other hand, has gone on the defensive. A senior Sena corporator, who refused to be identified, said, “This is definitely the work of some senior BJP leader. The Sena had opposed their night market plan and, hence, they are opposing the gym. We have all the permissions and the gym shall stay; it is good for citizens.”
When asked if the BJP had anything to do with the gym’s removal, Manoj Kotak, BJP’s group leader in the BMC, said, “We are together with the Sena in the BMC. In fact, I have openly asked the BMC to investigate why the gym was removed if all permissions were in place.”
The BMC, too, is not happy with the Sena clashing with them. “We will speak to them seven days from now, when the deadline for taking permission is over,” said a senior BMC officer. Municipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta was unavailable for comment despite multiple attempts having been made to reach him.