Ironically, Narendra Modi’s ‘Run for Unity’ has caused considerable division and dissent within a certain clique in the city the members of the country’s premier club, the National Sports Club of India (NSCI) in Worli.
On Sunday morning, BJP heavyweights, including Venkaiah Naidu, Gopinath Munde and others, arrived at the NSCI for an event, causing a stir among several of the club’s 14,000 members, whose parking spots had been given away to the BJP leaders. The members were outraged over the fact that they were not even informed about the usurpation.
BJP units across the country are conducting the ‘Run for Unity,’ described as Modi’s brainchild, which intends to drum up support for his pet ‘Statue of Unity’ project on the 63rd death anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. The planned statue is to be the tallest in the world. Not to be left behind, top BJP leaders in the city decided to pay homage to Patel, and chose Patel’s statue at the NSCI for the occasion. But the chaos that ensued left club members fuming.
Most of the members MiD DAY contacted expressed their ire over the inconvenience caused to them by the event, but chose to remain off the record while doing so. The club’s former secretary Viren Shah, however, said, “This is our club’s internal matter, but yes, members’ parking was used by one of the political parties, that too without the knowledge of members. That is very unfortunate and sets a bad precedent. It should be discouraged, or else in future, this can become a regular practice, which will make club members suffer the most.”
There was great disagreement and debate over the issue in the virtual world as well, with some members taking to social media to condemn the use of the club grounds by a political party, some calling it a ‘political tamasha’. A certain member wrote, “The club cannot be a place for political propaganda.”
Another wrote, “This club is meant for the benefit of members. Members’ inconvenience should be the priority, but sad to see these members are treated like second-class citizens in their own club.” Yet another member said, “So when is the next rally? Really! Hope the action does not shift from Shivaji Park to Worli.” Their anger was opposed by others, who insisted it was not a political event but a matter of ‘rashtra bhakti.’
Other members cautioned against opening up the club to political activity, saying, “Today, the club premises were used to promote a political party, permitting it to make political mileage out of a sports event. The management seems to be completely confused! What is happening to the club? Tomorrow, other political parties would want to use our premises for their rallies!
How will you say no to them? Are you going to discriminate? Does someone have a close affiliation to this party? It would seem so! And if so, then sir, please keep your political affiliations outside the premises of the club and beyond the ambit of its operations.” Meanwhile, an international karate championship is in progress at the club’s Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Stadium. Nearly 45 countries are participating in the event.
The other side
Jayanti Shah, the president of NSCI, told MiD DAY that he had only given permission to Gopinath Munde to garland the statue, as the latter had said that he wanted to pay homage to Sardar Patel, and that it was not a political event. “We won’t entertain the political party, even in the future. The parking lot was occupied for a few minutes and it was later cleared. No member was inconvenienced.”