Richard Hughes aboard Jacqueline after success in the 2010 Indian DerbyPICTURE: Indiarace.com
Mumbai racecouse's future hangs in balance
India: The future of Mahalaxmi racecourse in Mumbai hangs in the balance after proposals by the Royal Western India Turf Club to renew its soon-to-end 99-year lease of the racecourse grounds met with further opposition on Wednesday.
Around a third of the 226-acre plot in south Mumbai is the property of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, the civic body that governs the city of Mumbai, and which is ruled by Hindu nationalist political organisation Shiv Sena.
The BMC leased the land to the RWITC in 1914 but the lease period is set to expire on May 31. The remainder of the land is the property of state government.
While the RWITC is keen to renew the lease, the BMC have made it clear that they want the racecourse to be developed into an attraction that "all citizens can enjoy."
Political representatives met on Wednesday to discuss plans for the site, where the BMC put forward proposals to develop the track into public gardens.
According to dnaindia.com, Yashodhar Phanse, Shiv Sena member and leader of the house, said: "We want a theme garden to be developed on the land. While all the international cities have at least three such gardens, we don't have one."
Last month, mayor Sunil Prabhu had written to civic chief Sitaram Kunte recommending that the RWITC lease not be renewed and the land be turned into a "theme garden" for the benefit of citizens.
Quoted on indianexpress.com, Prabhu said: "We would like to build a garden of international standards that all citizens can enjoy. We find it inappropriate to allow such a large tract of land to be used by the rich to train horses. There have also been reported violations in the lease agreement.
"The state government may own the majority of the land but we are going to ask them to reconsider. BMC land will definitely be taken back. It would be folly on the congress' part to oppose the decision; that would not be in the interest of Mumbai's people."
However, congress leaders in the civic body have raised doubts over whether the BMC will be able to develop such a large plot.
Municipal commissioner Sitaram Kunte said the legal aspects of the issue would be checked before a final decision is taken.