Mumbai, Oct. 25: The Mumbai Cricket Association is set to doff its cap to Sachin Tendulkar by naming a spanking new club after him, but the Aam Aadmi Party is threatening to play party-pooper ahead of the Little Master’s farewell 200th Test.
The Maharashtra convener of Arvind Kejriwal’s party has urged Sachin not to associate his “blessed name” with the Kandivli sports complex or attend its November 11 inaugural, claiming the MCA has “blatantly stolen a playground of Mumbai’s children” to build it.
On Tuesday, MCA boss Sharad Pawar had announced that the complex would be named Sachin Tendulkar Gymkhana club and opened in the presence of the India and West Indies cricket teams. This is one of many initiatives the MCA has lined up in honour of Sachin before he pads up for the last time at the Wankhede on November 14.
But AAP’s Anjali Damania, who claims to have done an expose on the purported landgrab and has filed a PIL in Bombay High Court, has asked Sachin “not to smear your good name” by associating with a “wicked club”.
In a letter, Damania has written: “Aam Aadmi Party entreats you to not associate your blessed name with the MCA club, which has blatantly stolen a playground of Mumbai’s children and made it into a swank club for the rich and famous.
“A Mumbaikar yourself, you know how our children are forced to play cricket in gullies, incurring the wrath of many broken windows. Almost all playgrounds have been stolen by politicians who make swank facilities with prohibitive entry costs. We have nothing against luxurious clubs — but they should be made on commercial land, not land stolen from our children.
“At this stage, when you are poised to put down the bat and signal the end of India’s most spectacular sports eras, the whole world’s eyes are on you. At this time, more than ever, your being associated with a wicked club that has stolen the playground of the poorest children of a city that has been the Mecca of Indian cricket would be a complete shame.
“You would do well not to smear your good name through an association with this club which is besmirched in controversy.”
Damania has provided links to documents supporting her claim at the bottom of her letter. There is no statement from Sachin on whether he has agreed to the use of his name or whether he will attend the inaugural.
In her expose, Damania has alleged that the MCA took over a playground to construct a private club and run commercial operations. The 40,000sqm plot was reportedly cleared for handover to the MCA within five days of Pawar writing to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation in September 2003. The actual handover happened in 2005.
Damania has also claimed that the status of the plot was changed from “playground” to “recreational ground” and the terms of the agreement were changed from “adoption policy” to “caretaker policy” to enable construction on the premises.
She alleged the MCA had already collected Rs 270 crore from private members at the rate of Rs 9 lakh a member, indicating that commercial exploitation of the property had already begun.
Before Damania stepped in, the Shiv Sena had kicked up dust over the renaming of the club, claiming that only the BMC had the right to do so as the plot belonged to it.
But in a flip-flop, the Sena today dropped its opposition and got a resolution passed naming the Kandivli sports complex “Sachin Tendulkar Gymkhana”. Sources said Pawar had indicated that Uddhav Thackeray would be invited to the inaugural. The resolution will be tabled in the House on October 28.