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Why Mahalaxmi Racecourse is the new Shivaji Park of Mumbai

Shivaji Park is out of bounds for rallies because of its heritage tag and BKC’s MMRDA grounds are too big for any party to fill with supporters, making the Mahalaxmi racecourse a good option; Uddhav addressed a rally there on Sept 27, and Modi will do so on Saturday

Mahalaxmi Racecourse seems to have emerged as the new Shivaji Park of the city. After Uddhav Thackeray held his first election rally at the racecourse grounds on September 27, BJP’s star campaigner Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to address a party rally there.

While Uddhav addressed a huge gathering on Sept 27, the BJP hopes its crowd will be as big, if not bigger. Pic/Rane Ashish
While Uddhav addressed a huge gathering on Sept 27, the BJP hopes its crowd will be as big, if not bigger. Pic/Rane Ashish

Modi’s rally, which will be held on Saturday, exactly a week after Uddhav’s, is going to be a show of strength by the BJP, according to party leaders, and is meant to prove to the Sena that it can attract a big crowd too, if not bigger. The BJP rally would mark the third time this year that the Mahalaxmi Racecourse is used as a venue for a political gathering.

Shivaji Park is out of reach for parties, thanks to the heritage tag, and the other ground in South Mumbai is Jambori Maidan, but a fair is organised there during Navratri. Another option is the MMRDA grounds in Bandra-Kurla Complex, but the space there is too much and even a big crowd makes it look empty.

“No political party wants to risk an empty ground being shown on television or newspapers the next day. The MMRDA grounds are also inconvenient for many and with most leaders busy campaigning, it will be difficult for them to ensure a very big turnout.

Shivaji Park is very approachable, but no rallies are allowed there, so we are left with very few options as far as holding rallies is concerned. Thus, the Mahalaxmi Racecourse seemed like a good alternative,” said a BJP leader.

The other reason for the BJP choosing the racecourse is to give the Sena a yardstick to compare its rally with. “The Sena rally saw a huge crowd and if we want to compare our strength with them, it’s logical for us to hold a rally at the same ground.

This will let people compare the rallies and also see who attracts a bigger crowd Shiv Sena or BJP,” said the leader. While the BJP refused to comment on whether Modi would take potshots at Uddhav during his rally, the party said in an e-mail that its scale would be comparable to the Prime Minister’s address at the Madison Square Garden in the US.

Taking cues
Meanwhile, the Shiv Sena is going to keep a close eye on Modi’s speech on Saturday. While Uddhav had refrained from commenting on, or directly attacking, Modi at his rally, a Shiv Sena, leader claimed that the party’s strategy on attacking the BJP would depend largely on how the national party handles the issue of the split during its rally.

BMC speak
BMC’s ward officer from G-South Ward, Keshav Ubale, said, “Permission is granted for holding political rallies at the racecourse in consultation with the state election commission and the BMC’s estate department. The parties pay the BMC for holding rallies there.” Sources in the BMC said that the Shiv Sena paid nearly Rs 4.5 lakh for its rally and a similar amount will be charged from the BJP.

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