Sport kicked out of the park

The Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC) finds itself in a nightmarish situation, being caught in a full-blown political war between the Shiv Sena and Congress over the ownership of the iconic Mahalaxmi Race Course.

Located facing the sea and surrounded by landmark sites like Haji Ali and Malabar Hill, the race course is a prime property and one of the few remaining open spaces in the city. So it comes as no surprise that the moment the lease granted to RWITC came up for renewal, politicians jumped in.

The lease expired on May 31. And the Thackerays do not want it renewed. Now, a part of the land is governed by the BMC, ruled by the Shiv Sena. Mayor Sunil Prabhu approved his party’s plan to build the Bal Thackeray memorial theme park there, though the final decision rests with the state government, which is run by the Congress-NCP alliance. They fear the well-maintained facility might turn into another Shivaji Park if the Shiv Sena has its way. Congress does not have any specific plans yet, but they have categorically refused the construction of the theme park.

Amidst this political drama, the RWITC remains clueless. The derby regulars and riders are worried that the only space available to them in the city will be snatched.

And it’s not just the horse-racing governing body. From the Mumbai School Sports Association (MSSA) to Mumbai Hockey Association Ltd (MHAL) to the Sports Authority of India (SAI), almost every sports body is living in the fear of being evicted from its premises.

SAI’s case is just as baffling. Even more, in fact, as the central and the state governments fight it out over the piece of land in Kandivali, which is home to famed wrestlers Narsingh Yadav and Sandeep Yadav. It boasts of training facilities unlike anywhere else in the city, though they are unkempt and dilapidated. The state government has asked SAI, controlled by union sports ministry, to vacate the premises. “It is our land and we want it back. They (central government and SAI) haven’t done much development work here. We want them to vacate it so that we can develop it our own way,” says state sports secretary Jageshwar Saharia.

… contd.


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