Looks like the Samajwadi Party’s support of Shiv Sena’s plan to terminate the lease for Mahalaxmi Racecourse and convert the turf into a garden comes with conditions. SP leaders claim though they support the proposal to build a park there, they won’t agree to naming the garden after deceased Sena supremo Bal Thackeray.
If a name has to be given to the garden, it should be of leaders who have sacrificed their lives for the nation, the party claims. The Shiv Sena has publicly acknowledged its hopes for naming the garden after the late Thackeray. In the BMC on Wednesday, both SP and MNS supported Sena’s proposal that BMC’s lease with the Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC) for the racecourse shouldn’t be renewed, and instead the sprawling acres should be used to create an international theme park. (‘MNS, SP place their bets on racecourse closure’, May 16, 2013).
Abu Azmi, SP’s state and city unit president, claims the party would never acquiesce to naming the garden after Thackeray. “We can never be on the same page with the Sena, especially with the naming issue. There are many leaders who have sacrificed their lives for the nation and if the garden has to be named after someone then it should be after one of them,” said Azmi.
Rais Shaikh, SP group leader in BMC, who was present when Sena made the proposal and had assented to it, said, “We agreed to the proposal of not extending the lease of Mahalaxmi Racecourse and instead making an international-standard park there for the common Mumbaikar, as we lack such quality gardens.”
Asked if he was aware that the Sena harbours a desire to call the garden after a certain someone, he said, “We supported the proposal, and nowhere did it mention naming the garden after any leader. Whenever this issue comes up, we will oppose it. We won’t agree to naming the garden after Bal Thackeray, as he never held any statutory post.”
Its leaders say that being a socialist party, SP is opposed to the racecourse’s lease extension, since it reeks of capitalism. But ideology aside, a large chunk of its vote bank is formed of minority sections, for which the Shiv Sena is not a very comfortable ally.