Mumbai: Mahalaxmi joins the race for Mayor's official residence
With Raj Thackeray expressing displeasure at the proposed mayor bungalow at Shivaji Park Gymkhana, Shiv Sena eyes 12,000-sqm plot near Mahalaxmi racecourse
Mahalaxmi could soon become the mayor's turf, with the BMC contemplating an 11,972-sqm plot near the racecourse as the future address of Mumbai's first citizen. The civic body came up with this Plan B a week after MNS chief Raj Thackeray raised objections to the original plan to convert the Shivaji Park Gymkhana into the mayoral residence.
The existing mayor's bungalow at Shivaji Park, Dadar, is soon to make way for the proposed Bal Thackeray memorial, for which the BMC has already given advanced possession to the Bal Thackeray Memorial Trust.
The plot is located on Keshavrao Khade Marg, near racecourse. Pic/Bipin Kokate
As Shivaji Park is close to the heart of Shiv Sena leaders, the political party wants the new residence to be built there as well. The Sena was earlier considering converting the Shivaji Park Gymkhana into the mayoral residence, and the BMC even changed the plot's land use to municipal housing in the Development Plan 2034.
However, last week, MNS chief Raj Thackeray visited civic commissioner Ajoy Mehta and said that his party would not allow the conversion of the gymkhana, as it was a place for recreation and should not be used for official residence. Perhaps fearing opposition from locals, who have in the past objected to Sena's Dussehra rallies and other events being held at the park, senior Sainiks are now considering the Mahalaxmi plot as a strong option.
The mayor's bungalow at Shivaji Park is set to make way for the Bal Thackeray memorial. file pic
While the Mayor was adamantly against shifting to the suburbs, this plot is centrally located on Keshavrao Khade Marg, near the Mahalaxmi Racecourse. Not only is this a posh locality, but the land is vacant and already earmarked for municipal housing. Sized at 11,972 square metres, it is, in fact, marginally bigger than the current mayoral residence (11,551 sqm) at Shivaji Park, and far larger than the Gymkhana's 2,400 sqm. All in all, the Mahalaxmi plot looks like the best option.
However, the final decision lies with Sena. A senior civic official said, "The options will be given to Shiv Sena, and the party leaders will finalise the place. While the Gymkhana was more or less finalised, we were told to also keep the Mahalaxmi plot available as an option."
The Sena is also considering building the mayoral residence at Shivaji Park Gymkhana. file pic
Mayor Vishwanath Mahadeshwar told mid-day, "The decision about the mayor's new official residence is yet to be made." The clock is ticking on the decision, with the Sena expected to lay the foundation stone for the Bal Thackeray memorial at Shivaji Park in January. Despite mid-day's repeated attempts to contact BMC chief Mehta, he remained unavailable for comment.
Not for this Mayor
Mayor Vishwanath Mahadeshwar will be shifting to a bungalow at the Veermata Jijabai Udyan and Zoo. Since his term ends in nine months, it is unlikely that he will get to enjoy the new residence, wherever it is constructed. And if civic officials and Sena sources are to be believed, even the next mayor is unlikely to shift to the new house. It might take two to three years for construction, as the Sena wants to ensure that it constructs a state-of-the-art facility for the city's first citizen, which will remain untouched for another century.
The zoo bungalow
While Mahadeshwar was unwilling to move to the zoo bungalow, it was once occupied by a former additional civic chief who seemed unwilling to vacate it. mid-day had reported how the IAS officer vacated it only after the BMC marked the house as the mayoral bungalow. While Sena is not keen on the Mayor shifting to the zoo, this is the only spacious official residence that is vacant and can be renovated by January.
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