The Special General Body Meeting called to amend the Articles of Association to accommodate 50 government nominees as members will be held on Wednesday. The overwhelming vote will be to defeat the resolution. This fact has also been conceded by the Chairman of the Club Harimohan Naidu who has said that in the event of the resolution not going through, the club is ready with its Plan B of going to court for remedy within a day or two. Ironically, the principal respondent from the government side is the Finance Secretary who also happens to be the Director of the Club. Will the Director of the Club endorse a suit against himself?
The whole exercise is full of contradictions because the Chairman of the Club is endorsed by the government and will he go against the body which nominated him? The writ petition will be against the government with the main respondent being the Additional Chief Secretary and Finance Secretary I S N Prasad who also happens to be the Director of BTC by virtue of his position in office. Can the Director be endorsing a suit against himself? In the event of the legal battle becoming inevitable, will the Chairman of the Club resign along with the government nominees because their position becomes untenable? The Police Commissioner of the City and two other members of BTC Vivekananda and U B Venkatesh are on the board of directors. Will they go against the government and still be part of the board?
These are questions that remain to be answered on the eve of the Special General Body Meeting of the turf club. Racing activities have come to a standstill since September 1 and the focus of attention of all racegoers in the country is on the meeting. Racing enthusiasts and stakeholders are fervently hoping against hope for members to see the writing on the wall and act in the best interest of the sport.
The last committee moved a resolution to increase the membership by 150 and the entire committee resigned when it became obvious that the resolution would be defeated. The previous committee had taken the step without following a technicality of seeking government clearance for the same. The present committee has taken the permission of the government and then not made any effort to ensure that the resolution is passed. Under such circumstances, the defeat of the resolution would be like passing a no-confidence motion against the committee for seeking government permission for expansion when such a proposal was not acceptable to the majority.
The decision to go to the court must be taken by the committee if this is the direction they get from the general body. However, the board must meet and then decide on the writ. For this, all the Directors of the club are expected to be present. Will the government nominees abstain from the meeting or attend the same? Will they remain as Directors once the case is filed because one of them will be the principal respondents against whom the case is being filed? Your answer is as good as mine, but the contradiction is very apparent. The last committee was faulted for going against the government endorsed chairman. And thus, the onus will be on the present endorsed chairman also to toe the government line or quit if he is not able to enforce the government mandate.
The Bangalore Turf Club members have the most violent tool which is the vote and they are determined to vote for the disruption of racing. The turf club members, by decisively voting against the resolution to give 50 memberships to government nominees will be embarking on a course of self-destruction besides causing untold hardship to the race-horse owners, professionals and others dependent on the racing activity for their survival. The cost of legal battle is enormous both financially or otherwise.
The racing activity is heavily dependent on the support extended by the government agencies. By trying to prove that their vote is mightier than the might of the government, they cannot hope to escape the consequences. Racing is in for hard times. One is not sure when the racing activity can resume in Bangalore because the proceedings in the court are never done in a hurry and it may take a few months for any hope of racing to resume in Bangalore if at all any favourable verdict is given. The chances are as good as picking all the winners in an entire day`s race card.
The other turf clubs in the South have already expressed their inability to help by providing additional races for Bangalore horses. Most of the BTC members could take the decision to vote against racing because they have no financial stake in it. Quite often it is said that the best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter but if you have the conversation with the BTC members, you may well end up feeling that democracy is not for these people. BTC members have taken a disastrous decision because the good citizens among the membership fraternity have kept quiet instead of steering the way. It may be apt to add a quote here: The darkest places are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis. The members have no commitment to the sport and to the large section of those who have been the pillars of the sport. They don`t mind the destruction of the sport because they are against the democratization of the club by broad-basing of membership.
The Bangalore Turf Club went on an ill-advised move to fight the government by taking the matter of ownership of the land to the courts several years ago. This boomeranged on the club and the High Court mandated that the club moves out of the premises in six months without directing the government to give an alternate land. The Special Leave Petition is pending in the Supreme Court and one is not sure when that matter will be raked up. A hostile government can have the matter heard as a priority. So far, the government of Karnataka has been kind not making any effort to revive the matter in the Supreme Court. As a goodwill gesture, the members could have conceded membership of the club to about 50 government nominees and sought concessions as a bargain. Unfortunately, members think that it is their divine right to call the shots and that their power cannot be diluted by the influx of more members. They fear that will be marginalized. The need of the hour is not just to add 50 government nominees but to broad-base it by giving membership to stakeholders.
It is more than two months that racing activities stopped in Bangalore, causing the club to lose more than Rs 25 crores. The GST has already made things difficult for the club to survive. There is not much money left in the reserves for the long legal battle besides having to maintain the overheads. The club spent more than Rs 2 crores in Supreme Court. The legal advisors had told the club that the relief may not be forthcoming in a hurry and that there will be a longish battle of attrition. They had also highlighted the consequences of the club`s action. However, the adamant members egged on by a few aggressive ones, have convinced the others that legal option was the best course left. If the members thought so, they should have initiated legal action straightaway instead of going through with the rigmarole of asking for permission for increase of membership and then voting against it wasting more than two months in the process. The club mandarins also have no alternate plan if legal remedy is not forthcoming.
Racing has been collectively let down by all sections of the fraternity including the club members, administrators, racehorse owners and professionals who by their inaction have allowed things to drift this far. The sequence of events clearly shows that there has been a total failure of leadership at all levels – managerial, administrative and more particularly political.
Hope is being able to see light despite the darkness. Unfortunately, we don`t see even a ray of hope the way things have transpired.