Mayor gets bangles over racecourse issue

Jun 26, 2013, 05:42 IST | Sujit Mahamulkar

Congress corporator offers bangles to Sunil Prabhu during the general body meeting after he disallowed opposition members from expressing their views; attacked by Shiv Sena leaders, who claim this was an affront to all Mumbaikars

Many citizens would agree that the 130-year-old Mahalaxmi Racecourse is worth fighting for, but corporators from Congress and Shiv Sena took this sentiment rather literally yesterday, the setting being the civic general body meeting.

Muzzled: Mayor Sunil Prabhu (inset) provoked opposition members in the BMC house when he said it was his prerogative whether to allow them to voice their views on the Mahalaxmi Racecourse. File Pics

It all started when Rahul Shewale, chairman of the standing committee, started reading his notice of motion proposing that the BMC acquire its part of the racecourse land leased to the Royal Western India Turf Club. Mayor Sunil Prabhu immediately called for a vote and declared the proposal as passed within minutes.

Meanwhile, opposition members stood up and tried to convince Prabhu to allow them to speak on the matter. The mayor, however, reportedly said it was his right to decide whether or not to permit them to express their views.

Opposition corporators started mouthing slogans against the mayor’s perceived high-handedness and gheraoed him, disrupting proceedings of the meeting.

Suddenly, Congress councillor Sheetal Mhatre approached the mayor’s desk and put two of her bangles there, as a mark of protest. This incited ruling Sena corporators to come forward, and a scuffle began. Two Shiv Sena corporators Yamini Jadhav and Kishori Pednekar ran towards Mhatre and tried to hit her. The latter somehow evaded a punch, but her spectacles sustained some scratches.

“They came to my seat and hit me when I returned after offering the bangles to the mayor,” said Mhatre. The Congress leader has registered a complaint against Jadhav and Pednekar at Azad Maidan police station.

The duo has, however, rejected the allegation. “We did not hit her. It was a reaction to her action. She (Mhatre) insulted the city’s mayor, which is an insult to every Mumbaikar. So we responded,” said Jadhav.

She also claimed that her mangalsutra went missing in the melee and she too was smacked by opposition members.  Ruling corporators, however, demanded that Mhatre be suspended for her misbehaviour and that she apologise to the city.

“We will not allow her to attend the general body meeting until she expresses regret for offering bangles to the mayor,” said Pednekar.

Quote unquote
Mayor Sunil Prabhu: Sheetal Mhatre should apologise or face action for her conduct in the general body meeting, as the corporation has over a hundred-year-old history. It is an insult to the post, not the person.

Dilip Lande, MNS leader: BMC should take action against both Congress and Shiv Sena, who are guilty. Both parties should teach their corporators how to maintain decorum in the general body meeting.

Mohan Adtani, additional municipal commissioner (a witness to the incident): The administration doesn’t have any role in this episode.  

Malabar Hill renaming bid lapses
Meanwhile, amid all this drama at BMC, the renaming of Malabar Hill has been cancelled (as the bid lapsed) until the corporator puts up a notice of motion again. During the chaos yesterday, the mayor had asked MNS leader Dilip Lande, who had advocated the renaming, to read his proposal. But this could not be done, as Lande was busy criticising the mayor’s attitude. “Because of his not responding to the notice of motion, it has lapsed,” said Sunil Prabhu. Now, the MNS leader has to move a new notice of motion. Congress and Nationalist Congress Party have decided to oppose the bid. 

‘Mayor should have followed rules of democracy’

MiD DAY posed three questions to Congress corporator Sheetal Mhatre:

Why did you give bangles to the mayor?
The mayor should have followed the rules of democracy. He has not allowed opposition members to express their views and he also does not have the courage to listen. So, I offered him the bangles.

Did you react to the actions of ruling party’s corporators?
No. I gave the bangles to the mayor and came back to my seat. Sena members came to my seat and hit me.

What is your stand on the racecourse?
We just wanted to point out that most of the open spaces have been secured by ruling party members on caretaker basis. What is the status of those plots? Most of BMC’s open spaces are ill maintained. 

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