By Quaid Najmi
Mumbai, Jan 9 (IANS) Whipping up a bizarre political-cum-business cocktail, the Shiv Sena-ruled BMC bulldozed massive illegal constructions inside a BJP-controlled club in which a prominent Congress minister is a member besides several leading Mumbai business honchos.
The dark blot came on the prestigious Goregaon Sports Club (GSC) in suburban Malad, where some members and management leaders are ostensibly connected with central Bharatiya Janata Party leaders.
The Maha Vikas Aghadi government’s Minister for Ports & Textiles and Mumbai City Guardian Minister Aslam Shaikh is among the jewels on the list of its prominent members comprising industrialists, businessmen, glam-persons, professionals, besides leading politicians who advise/patronise the GSC.
In a rude New Year jolt to the GSC authorities and members, a BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) team from P/North swooped on the club premises on January 3 and mercilessly demolished a series of temporary or semi-permanent structures, erected or coming up, on a massive 50,000 sq.feet area (nearly the size of a hockey field) – planned as a food court.
The BMC rough action came after several notices, including a tough one 11 months ago, served on the GSC ordering it to fall in line as the ongoing illegalities flouted the MMC Act/MRTP Act.
GSC sources said that the management arrogantly turned a Nelson’s Eye to the notices and pointed fingers at unidentified “mischief mongers” out to sully the club’s reputation for their own vested interests.
Nevertheless rattled by the BMC’s sledgehammer on its gleaming premises, the GSC management hastily issued a private 4-page explanation, in which it committed to bear the losses arising from the demolition – around Rs 12.50 crore – and assured that “there will be no extra burden on the Club”.
However, many skeptical members have taken the management’s promise with a bag of salt, dismissively saying there is “a huge gap between words and deeds”, considering past experiences.
In mid-2021, the GSC’s 11,000-plus members were stunned when a leading international external auditor made a damning expose of a massive financial fraud of around Rs 25 crores.
Some worried GSC members moved a local court to bar the report from being made public while the harried management bowed, vowing to probe the purported mega-hustle, but 9 months on, nothing has moved to pinpoint the alleged swindlers.
“Considering the murky mismanagement, financial frauds, illegalities and other things, many members feel the GSC should be taken over by a government-appointed Administrator for a few years to restore its past glory,” a glum member, Vijay Agarwal told IANS.
Spread over a lush 10 acres, the GSC was conceptualized in 1980 and finally came into existence in 2002, with oodles of support from persons like (now) Shiv Sena Minister Subhash Desai, and (now) Congress Minister Shaikh, said leading realtor and one of the founder-members, Ashok Goyal.
“It is the only private club in Mumbai and surroundings with an Olympic-size swimming pool, an Olympic-specification diving pool and several world-class sports activities, indoor-outdoor games and other amenities for the suburbanites who were deprived of such things for long,” Goyal told IANS.
Needless to say, the GSC’s membership fees sound like a prince’s ransom – between Rs 1.50-Rs 2.00 million (Rs15-20 lakhs per head) – with a long queue of hopefuls!
Another member, requesting anonymity, said it is a “mystery” how the management dared to blatantly function like this with so many bigwigs watching over them, and why the latter took no steps to arrest the GSC downfall.
Despite repeated attempts, Shaikh was not available for his reactions to the questionable goings-on in the GSC where he is a frequent and honoured visitor.
(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org)
By Quaid Najmi