House leader in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), Shiv Sena’s Trushna Vishwasrao has written a letter to Municipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta stating that the Mahalaxmi racecourse be turned into a ‘theme park’ for Mumbaikars.
Horses are the stars at the racecourse
Mehta said, “There has been a lot of correspondence. If they (the Shiv Sena) says that they have sent a letter, they must have. I have to check up. With the club’s lease over, the Mahalaxmi racecourse matter awaits a final resolution anyway.”
RWITC’S Vivek Jain
Vishwasrao, when asked, acknowledged that she had sent a letter stating that the racecourse should become a theme park. “I do not know which theme the park will be based on,” she said in response to a question adding, “we can have several themes. We should have a laser show too,” she stated. Vishwasrao also cited concerns from animal activists, about the pain the horses have to endure stating that, “even ghoda gaadis (tongas) are not allowed to run.” She stated that keeping the racecourse open and shows will boost tourism, “Is it necessary that horses have to race?” she asked, saying that racing should be shifted to the outskirts of the city. “There is plenty of land and the rich can go there for racing,” she stated adding that, “the racecourse 100 year-old lease is over, so it is time we take back the land. The club regularly holds weddings there, the Mumbai Mahanagar Palika does not get any substantial revenue from these functions.”
Dismissing the accusation that the Shiv Sena has gained a reputation for constantly targeting the racecourse, she said, “not true,” adding, “Mumbai needs to progress, and keeping it green does not only mean running to the Tree Authority when trees are cut, but also actively opening spaces to the public.”
The Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC) has gone blue in the face in the past, reiterating that they are open for walkers and joggers in the morning, and they also have a park which can be accessed by all, within the racecourse itself. “We are a public space, besides, we have had no objections from animal rights activists,” says RWITC’s media and marketing chief Vivek Jain adding that, “we have regular animal inspectors at the racecourse. These fine equines are, in fact, the most pampered animals. They are the finest horseflesh in the country, and they are not ill-treated in any way. There is no way you can compare them to ghoda-gaadis (tongas) and racecourses,” he stated firmly.
Jain did accede that the Mahalaxmi’s lease is over, “and we are reaching out to the Govt. on a solution to that. We are also willing to put up a laser show, the RWITC can put laser lights and dancing fountains in the centre of the racecourse, but the party needs to sit with us and discuss the proposal.” Stating emphatically that the racecourse cannot be moved to the outskirts, Jain said it would result in dwindling attendance and will be a huge expense to build infrastructure again. “So many premier racing centres in the world have a racecourse in the middle of the city.” The RWITC also reminded all those who want them to pack their bags and horses and get a hoove on that, “We have only 42 days of racing in a year. We are also taxed by the Govt, we need to renew our racing license every season, Moreover 1/3rd the revenue earned from the weddings does go to the Govt.” The club also cites support from green activists signing off that, “We have a strong case and in fact, Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Ashish Shelar who was at the racecourse recently, announced on the dais that, ‘racing will continue forever and go on for hundreds of years’, so you have two arms of the Govt. not seeing eye to eye.”
The racecourse has repeatedly fended off threats from politicos to vested parties to usurp the land. Vishwasrao’s letter, coming just before the RWITC hosts the glamourous Poonawalla Million on Sunday, is a sign that so many parties still continue to have a shine for this green and pleasant land.