As the lease renewal of a racecourse in the city becomes the topic of a verbal war among the political bigwigs of Maharashtra, former Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi has asked Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan for a proper assessment of the market rent before fixing the lease rent.

Claiming that the arbitrary decisions on the lease rent of lands in Maharashtra is causing a loss of around Rs. 30000 crore to the State government, Mr. Gandhi, in his letter to the chief minister, has requested him to ensure that a fresh lease agreement be drawn only after discovering the lease rent which the market is willing to offer.

The 225-acre land in the heart of Mumbai, where the Royal Western India Turf Club Limited (RWITC), one of the oldest and most well-known clubs hosts horse racing, has turned into a political issue with the Shiv Sena opposing the extension of lease to the racecourse. The lease ended on May 31. The Sena, which rules the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), wants it to be turned into a garden and has indicated its intention to build a memorial to the late Bal Thackeray.

Verbal war

Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar and Sena president Uddhav Thackeray recently engaged in a verbal war over the issue, when Mr. Pawar taunted the Sena leader to take care of existing gardens in the city first.

Mr. Gandhi, however, made it clear that his intention was to bring as much money as possible to the government’s treasury, irrespective of who used the land for what purpose. “If you make the calculations of lands given on lease at pittance, the State government is losing up to Rs. 30,000 crore. Ask the market what rent they want to pay? At present, the lease from the racecourse land is less than Rs. three crore and as per the market rate, it should be around Rs. 100 crore,” he said.

The State government, which is likely to renew the lease, despite the Sena’s opposition, is yet to take a call on the technical aspects of the new lease agreement.