The Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC) is still awaiting renewal, or any movement at all, on its 100-year lease of the Mahalaxmi Racecourse. The green emerald of SoBo, housing the racing track and headquarters of the RWITC, is now a public, multi-faceted space. It has weathered several storms, the severest of which are statements by powerful politicians threatening to take away or convert the racecourse into something or the other.
There have been statements about converting it to a giant business and commercial centre. Then, there have been the occasional noises about making a part of the ground into an underground parking lot. These ideas may not have taken off, but they are designed to strike fear in the hearts of racing authorities and the public who cherish and relish this open space.
For nearly two years, the club has been in limbo with reference to renewal of the lease, which expired in 2013. Civic authorities must have clear-cut communication with the RWITC, whether to confirm that they will renew the lease or to explain why they are inclined against it. Without this transparency, the lease becomes a weapon to browbeat the RWITC and hold it to ransom.
A former club chairman had said that the club had to accede to demands to have certain political rallies and meetings at the venue. He said it was not good for the club and, in fact, it disturbed the infrastructure of the racing headquarters, but with the lease pending there was little the club could do about it.
The lease is also used as an election plank. Each aspiring chairman and committee have dangled it like a carrot in front of the club’s voter base, assuring they have enough influence to get the lease renewed.
It is time the BMC which had leased the land to the RWITC takes a stand. The powers that be must renew the agreement and dispel the cloud of doubts hanging heavy over the city’s landmark.