The Bangalore Turf Club is going through a crisis of leadership at a critical time. Racing is facing turbulent times with the GST having dealt a body blow to racing. When the situation warrants all the forces to work in unison, the club is hell-bent on creating an environment of self-destruction. Unfortunately, we don`t have the right person to lead the club in this hour of crisis. The present Chairman Harimohan Naidu falls short on several counts though he gives an impression that he is in control of things. But he is led by forces that are out to destroy the sport at the altar of personal ego. Unfortunately, the internecine quarrel resulted in a non-issue blowing out of proportion resulting in the government ordering a CID enquiry and cessation of racing activities for four months. The deadlock was brought about by frustrated members who were out to serve their own personal agenda. Just when there seemed to be no end to the crisis, the High Court intervened with Justice Bopanna taking pity on the suffering fraternity who was dependent on the activity of the sport for their livelihood. One thought the club and its members had learnt a lesson especially since their shenanigans had cost the club more than Rs 20 crores loss of revenue at a time when the steep GST had seen the betting on the tote fall by 50 percent.
But then the BTC members, pampered as they are, have not learnt any lesson. Some of the members want an enquiry to be conducted to see if the previous committee members could be expelled from the club because of the crisis that the club faced instead of trying to act on those members who brought about the downfall of the club by their anti-club activities. While the CID enquiry does not seem to see the end of the day, several in-house enquiries are set to take place. These exercises don`t serve any purpose except causing more bitterness and permanently damaging the club.
Last year, all the elected committee members barring one resigned when they could not meet their commitment of giving new memberships to the club as promised to the government through an amendment of the Articles of the Association. The new committee has used the opportunity to nominate their own people to the committee. These persons have no stake in racing nor do they understand the sport. There was provision for appointing two committee members who are racehorse owners. Shockingly, not a single racehorse owner has been nominated to the committee. And this could very well explain the reason why the crisis can only deepen. The focus thus is not on racing but on matters trivial. As such those on the committee are total novices. The only other senior member on the committee Satish Chandra who is a former Chairman is very negative minded and this has not helped matters.
The committee lacks direction with the Chairman allowing things to drift. For one, he did not take enough steps to ensure that racing started in quick time by negotiating with the government and persuading the members to solve the issue. Instead, the club went with a dishonest request to the government to permit them to increase membership and then dumped the same. Even after the license has been restored thanks to the intervention of the court, the Chairman has continuously failed the club by being party to several dubious decisions. He has allowed petty things to take precedence over matters of grave importance. There is the total bankruptcy of ideas. To make matters worse, in BTC, the best lack conviction.
The government formed a monitoring committee to investigate various issues. The monitoring committee no doubt has some formidable ex-bureaucrats. But they are also members of the club. So far one has not seen anything benefit because of their presence. The club continues to drift, and it is believed that they are looking into the dead issue of the positive case of Queen Latifa. This was a straightforward breach of medication and the monitoring committee would be simply wasting its time by having an enquiry on their own into it. We are fed up with these enquiries which benefits none.
The monitoring committee has been calling club members in batches to discuss the issues. It is a pity that they have not called those who have been chronicling the sport and know what ails the club. Surely, we have a lot of things to tell them about the viruses that are destroying the club.
The High Court gave a respite to the club with the specific purpose of giving relief to hapless workers. Unfortunately, BTC is doing its best to hurt this community which has been working loyally. The first victims of cost-cutting measures have been the tote employees though the club`s main argument was to alleviate the suffering of these people in its Writ. The club mandarins have been taking decisions like the Tughlaq by taking measures and then reversing it the next day. There is no talk of cost-cutting measures by watering down the privileges and asking members to chip in just as they are asking the poor workers to take a cut in their earning capability after being deprived of any income for four months.
People are increasingly deserting the sport and there is a sharp decline in the attendance. To make matters worse, the committee has also doubled the charge for entry into enclosures. So much so that several enclosures hardly have anyone occupying the seats. There is no one to punch the tickets at these counters. However, they cannot reduce the staff here and put them in public stand because the members will take offence! The tote dividends have taken a nose dive. The difference in odds between the bookmakers and the ones that are given out on the tote is unacceptably low. Since the odds are announced by the other clubs who have bookmakers operating, it only highlights the raw deal that the punters at this centre are getting.
The Summer Season will see a drastic cut in stakes if things don`t improve. The club also abolished bookmakers and in the present crisis, is feeling the pinch. The bookmakers used to contribute about Rs 15 crores to the club and an equal amount to the government provided the full complement of bookmakers operated. That loss the club could only make up if the tote collections increased by Rs 250 crores. Instead, there has been a drastic fall. The tote turnover is expected to drop from about Rs 2000 crores to less than half this amount. The turf club has become a haven for illegal betting activity and the club mandarins have been blind to it. The government is losing crores of rupees as a result and the monitoring committee has done little to direct the committee to take suitable measures.
The club managing committee, unfortunately, doesn`t seem to appreciate the need for finding solutions. Their energies are lost on insignificant matters. The committee members are swayed by some frustrated section of the members who have no long-term vision. There is no planned budget for the next one year; what will be the shortfall, how the club plans to cope with it. One has been covering the sport for close to three decades and the present dispensation could be rated as the poorest.