The collective thoughts of racing enthusiasts all over the country are concentrated on one thing right now, the Bangalore Turf Club`s Extra-Ordinary General Body meeting scheduled for Wednesday, November 15. The racing industry is fervently hoping that the resolution goes through and racing is saved from self-destruction. The punters who used to throng the Race Course for the Bangalore Races on racing Days are feeling completely lost with the club activities coming to a standstill.
The premier racing centre in the country with an annual turnover of Rs. 2000 Crores is without activity since September 1st because the Govt of Karnataka has not renewed the license. The most important matter to be discussed in the EGM is to increase the membership of BTC by 50 members and hand over all these memberships to those who will be nominated by the Government of Karnataka.
This is a self-inflicted wound by the BTC which has become a non-healing ulcer and these non-healing ulcers can turn malignant and prove fatal in some cases, and in this case the patient is not just BTC but the entire Racing both as a royal agro-veterinary sport but also as an industry which provides employment to more than a million people nationwide. And when Bangalore racing gets affected, all the other racing centres also get affected by a cascading effect.
By now, everyone knows about all the goings on which have brought BTC to its knees. Its own Chairman wrote to the Chief Minister, complaining about his own colleagues in the committee blaming them for all sorts of things. On top of it, there was a case filed by an instigated owner about a drug offence when the drug concerned was only PROCAINE, a local anaesthetic. The Chairman and some other members appeared on the TV and fed the tabloids with all sorts of stories just to get even with some other members. The Government took notice of all this bad publicity and acted, cancelling the license for the Summer Meeting.
Before this, I must add that this present CM has been most friendly to Racing and both the Race Clubs in our state. In 2005, when we approached him (He was the Finance Minister then) on the vexed issue of taxation (until then it was a whimsical Compounded Tax varying every year) he said that all the Finance Ministers of all states had promised the Central Government that VAT system would be introduced and that the minimum in VAT, i.e.,4% would be the tax. This, as you can see played no small role in our turnover rising every year to the present Rs.2000 Crores. Even though the BJP Govt doubled the tax for only BTC, to 8%, we could take it in our stride.
And when I went to congratulate him after he was sworn in as Chief Minister, he said, "I am not going to touch your land" when I brought to his notice the Court Battle that BTC had to fight.
The license to race at MRC has been issued for the entire winter season but uncertainty haunts Bangalore Turf Club.
What do we do now? The problem is the way we take members. No ordinary racing enthusiast can apply, wait if necessary and become a member. I do not have to expand on our election process. Suffice to say that it becomes the talk of the town and provides much mirth and hilarity in the precincts of other premier clubs. For many racing people, BTC membership is simply not an attainable goal.
So, we must, at this point in time somehow overcome the present hurdle. I must point out one more thing: In the September 5 EGM, the members were asked to vote for an increase of 150 members, 50 to be given to the Govt and the rest to Owners, Trainers and other Racing Enthusiasts. This time it is for an increase of 50 and all to be given to the Government. What led the present committee to take this decision is not known, and though this requires heavy lobbying, the committee has not come forward with any reasons or requests to support the resolution. The Owners and Trainers seem to be happy to let members wrestle with this problem of great magnitude without doing anything. It looks as though they are not stake-holders at all.
So, we must, at this point in time somehow overcome this present problem, resume racing, thus taking care of all the stakeholders, more importantly, the temporary and daily wage workers. Maybe, the members must seriously consider dismounting from the high horses on which they see themselves now. Without our own land and the license to be obtained daily, we cannot afford to take a confrontational approach with the GOK, if only to see no further damage is done to racing.
Times have changed, and the writing is on the wall. We have to convince the members on one side and the GOK on the other to calmly think about the most important issue, which is the sport of Thoroughbred Horse Racing which is in danger, and how not only to sustain it but also to improve and popularise it. The misconception that the Turf Club Membership is a great achievement, ego trip, high point of the societal summit to be shown off, albeit without any responsibilities, has to be wiped out.