Why should an international cricket stadium be used for a political event when there are other grounds available? This is the question Nadeem Memon, maidan secretary of Mumbai Cricket Association and former curator of Wankhede Stadium, is posing to the BJP, after learning that the ground will be the venue for the oath-taking ceremony of the new BJP-led government.
The ceremony is tentatively slated for October 31, Friday, when the new chief minister of the state, along with his cabinet, shall be sworn in at the stadium. Memon contends that organising the function in the ground will undo years of toil and hard work that were put in to bring the stadium up to international standards.
Wankhede's turf has been laid upon sand, and keeping chairs, sofas and other seating arrangements on it will lead to small craters being formed on the ground. Repairing them will take at least 20 days, that, too, on a war footing, Memon explained.
He also added that due to the function, important practice matches for the Ranji Trophy and Under-19 have to be shifted to the MCA ground in BKC, which is already crowded with Under-16, Under-14 and women's teams' matches. Moreover, Memon claimed an annual MCA awards ceremony scheduled for November 1 had to also be postponed.
"My only issue is, why is an international ground being used for a swearing-in ceremony when other options are available? They can do it at MMRDA ground in Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC).
Party workers will put all kinds of chairs and sofas. What if the ground is damaged? It's very difficult to make an international-level ground and Wankhede has never been used for political purposes before. Why now? Why are politicians hell-bent on organising it here?" Memon questioned.
He recalled that, in the year 2007, post India's victory in the Twenty20 World Cup, there had been objections to Sharad Pawar using the ground for the celebration ceremony. Memon claimed that they had received assurances, saying the pitches would be cordoned off.
Yet, people ran all over the pitches and the ground. Memon claims politicians are dictating the terms now. The BJP's ceremony is set to be attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP party chief Amit Shah and other top brass of the party.
"I will request the Governor not to hold the function here, and, instead, ask him to take it somewhere else. Wankhede has a capacity of only 35,000 while Chowpatty can accommodate nearly 1 lakh. Why not go there? If Modi is going to do this, then what else do I say?" Memon wondered.
B K Upadhyay, joint commissioner of police (traffic), said, "We have made parking arrangements near Vidhan Bhavan, Grant Medical College, M K Road and M G Road. Further traffic restrictions would be imposed due to VIP movement from the airport to Marine Lines."