Racecourse is no place for political meetings

Today, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi holds a mammoth rally at the Mahalaxmi Racecourse in SoBo, it really seals the reputation of Mahalaxmi as the new hunting ground for political parties.

Recently, this paper had carried an extensive report about how the Mahalaxmi Racecourse seems to have emerged as the new Shivaji Park of the city. Uddhav Thackeray, too, held his first election rally at the racecourse grounds on September 27. With the BJP rally, this will be the third time this year that the racecourse is being used as a venue for a political gathering. With Shivaji Park out of reach for parties, thanks to the heritage tag, and a couple of other reasons, the racecourse seems to be a natural political- party puller.

However, the racecourse should not be used for political rallies. Not just the inside of the ground but also its parking lot, which is part of the racecourse complex. The green emerald of SoBo should be kept for horse racing. Even in off season (like it is currently), let it be an open ground for walkers, joggers and footballers who play in the middle of the club, riders of The Amateur Riders Club (ARC), and for polo. This is not a site for humungous political meetings, which gives an unnecessary political colour to a venue, which has been perennially steeped in controversy as it is so coveted by politicians and land sharks.

It has taken vigilance to keep the politicians and interested parties from taking over this land on the pretext that it is too elitist or that one needs to exploit this land commercially.

The Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC) honchos had once expressed their unhappiness with the club being used for rallies, with political parties and leaders constantly asking for the venue. Yet, with the lease of the Mahalaxmi racing club still to be renewed the 100-year lease expired in 2013 the club has no option but to give in to their demands.

Back off politicians and leaders, leave the racecourse for citizens to enjoy; do not make it a platform for platitudes or your agenda.

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