Mumbai: High-profile Worli club NSCI in trouble for 'sub-letting' halls to BJP MLA's kin
Activists flag shady deal that allows Malkapur MLA Chainsukh Sancheti's family members to control recreation ground converted to banquet halls
The high-profile National Sports Club of India in Worli is in trouble yet again for allegedly violating its lease conditions. The club has built two new banquet halls measuring 22,000 square feet and has given the operational rights to an event management company run by family members of BJP MLA Chainsukh Sancheti. This despite the fact that the club premises are only meant to be used for sports activities.
The NSCI is situated on nearly 11 acres of prime sea-facing land in Worli, on lease from the BMC. As per the sanctioned development plan, the plot is earmarked as a recreational ground (RG), and was leased to the club for sports activities in the late '90s. Since then, however, the tony club has courted controversy several times for alleged illegal alterations and violations of the terms of lease.
An ad for banquet halls in a brochure from Plan Smart Events & Hospitality Services, run by BJP MLA Chainsukh Sancheti's family
This time, the family of a powerful BJP MLA is involved. The club is soon to launch two large banquet halls, collectively titled the Royal Halls and measuring a total of 22,000 sq ft. A day's rent of the space amounts to a cool R10 lakh, plus taxes. The operational rights for the space had been handed to Plan Smart Events & Hospitality Services, a company owned by Rahul Sancheti, Ranveer H Sancheti and Nisha Sancheti — the family members of Chainsukh Sancheti, five-time MLA from Malkapur in Buldhana district and vice-president of BJP, Maharashtra.
Red flags raised
Activists have raised a red flag over this arrangement, alleging that NSCI was illegally sub-letting the premises to the company. They pointed out that hosting events or commercial activities on the RG plot is in violation of civic norms. As per the BMC rule book, no further construction is allowed on the RG plot, and the ground cannot be sub-let to any individuals or company.
"Has this section of the club premises been allegedly sub-let to the family members of an MLA from the ruling party to avoid action by the civic authorities?" asked an activist, on condition of anonymity. It's not just activists who've raised objections either. One of BJP's own tweeted about it. "In connivance with the BMC officials, the club is blatantly flouting the norms in name of sports," Mumbai BJP secretary Vivekanand Gupta tweeted to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and the state anti-corruption bureau.
When mid-day contacted Gupta, he said, "Whatever I have to say, I mentioned in my tweet. Beyond this if I have anything, I will put it before the appropriate forum — senior BJP party leaders or BMC." As it turns out, Gupta has already complained against the club to the executive engineer of the Building Proposal department and assistant municipal commissioner of the Estate department. A senior civic official said, "We are examining the violations. If there are any [violations], we will take action according to the norms."
The other side
Jayantilal Shah, president of NSCI, claimed neither had the club favoured any individual, nor did it flout rules. "The vendor for operating the banquet halls was selected through a proper technical and financial bidding process. This was approved by the regional committee of the club," he added. Both Shah and MLA Chainsukh Sancheti dismissed all allegations of violations. Vidarbha MLA Sancheti said, "Whatever we are doing is according to the law and rule book."
Shah added that the allegations were made with the intention of maligning the club. "The club got the No Objection Certificate for construction of the stadium in 2004. The first part of the OC [occupation certificate] was received in 2010-2011, and the second part was received in 2013. We have applied for another part of the OC, and have accordingly submitted the relevant documents. We are hopeful of receiving it at the earliest," he said, adding, "This facility is primarily for the benefit and use of the members and their guests only."
Responding to allegations that the premises had been illegally sub-let for non-sport events, Shah said, "There is not a single inch of violation. This has not been sub-let; it is solely an operating arrangement. All development is for the members and their families. Everything is according to the BMC and fire brigade's plans and approvals."
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