The Bangalore Turf Club has slipped morally and in every respect in the last decade, with the Managing Committee members elected not living up to expectations. Many of them have ended up with dubious records. Unfortunately, the narrative set by them continues to dominate the mindset of the present office-bearers, many of them, left to themselves are people of immense merit and rectitude.
The deterioration started when Harimohan Naidu began to dominate the show. First was the systematic dismantling of the administration so much so that he also became a de facto administrator besides being the Steward and for some years as Chairman. People believed that he was a very efficient administrator and that his services were invaluable to the club. The belief persisted for some years before the skeletons started tumbling out. The present Managing Committee has removed him from representing the club in GST matters and effectively discarded him in a way that has affected the reputation that he had assiduously built with some of the functionaries of the other turf clubs. He is not wanted by the BTC anymore and is also facing a litany of issues including a case filed by his own family. It would not be right to elaborate on the details. The professionals are openly talking about the loans he took or sought from them. Not for nothing they say that Karma catches up!
The present Chairman of the Club Shivkumar Khenny seems to be an earnest man. He wants to cut on extravagant expenses and wants to make a sincere job to the extent he is allowed to. However, some of his advisors are bad and he may well end up getting a bad name if he gets carried away by them. Right now, he is focused on ensuring that the Invitation Cup goes off without a hitch and that the club does not splurge money when it is in the throes of a financial crisis. This will surely not make him popular with his electorate.
The betting on totes has fallen from Rs 2000 crores to about Rs 400 crores. The tote system is in shambles. The new computers that the Managing Committee invested by spending crores of rupees during the one-year regime of Uday Eswaran have backfired. The system has become slow and the operators are struggling to punch tickets at the speed at which they used to do in the old system. The computer department personnel were given a huge hike in salary much to the chagrin of the other officials including the ex-secretary Narayan who protested against the unwise move which also resulted in him being asked to retire at 60 when the club had given a contract for the longer duration only the previous year. The club is unable to implement the National Tote promise made in last May with much pomp because the present system is unable to reconcile many of the issues.
Uday Eswaran was expected to bring about transparency in the administration. Instead, he too believed in freebies and even had the fanciful idea of conducting an all-India golf tournament for turf clubs during the Invitation Cup weekend when the core activity of the race club is to run racing. If he took out the money from his pocket to fund the tournament, nobody would have any objection. He believed in giving a good time for his supporters through lavish parties at the expense of the club.
The present Chairman is against the idea of a golf tournament but there are still efforts to run the same with sponsorship from bookmakers and others thereby compromising the principles of the club. The bookmakers are very essential for the running of the activity but they should not be allowed to set the narrative. By taking favours from them, will the club have the moral authority left in them? Already the club has compromised by taking sponsorship from companies which conduct betting offshore including on the Bangalore races without due diligence.
If one were to write about the escapades of some of the managing committee members of the present and the past, one needs to write a book. Many of the past office-bearers are all making the news for all the wrong reasons. Suffice it to say there has been a total deterioration with none of the good men having the moral courage to stand up and express themselves. The priority of the members is to get the freebies and to ensure that in the election for membership of their kith and kin, their candidates have smooth sailing.
Among the present office bearers, Aravind Raghavan could well prove an albatross. Despite being a Steward, he is refusing to give up control of the Stable Welfare Society which has given him immense powers to keep everyone on their toes as far as the smooth running of racing is concerned. The other day there was a showdown between the functionary of the Karnataka Racehorse Owners Association and him at the club premises, with the former demanding that the entire committee nominated by him resign and a new committee put in charge to run the affairs. It was a fair demand because you cannot be expected to be riding two horses at the same time. This is not a circus. There is trouble brewing on this front as a new wage agreement is due between the syces and the Stable Welfare Society. The KROA has refused to attend the meeting called for this purpose by the Stable Welfare Society. The onus is on creating a new body shorn of any influence of Aravind Raghavan. After all, Aravind is not a racehorse owner and he has no business to be calling the shots there unless he has a vested interest.
There are wise men like K N Shantha Kumar who unfortunately are not assertive enough. There is Naval Narielwala who is a good man but handicapped by ideas that may not work. However, he is dogmatic and gets lost in the cobwebs that he may create. The other Stewards and Committee Members believe that they are there only to enjoy the perks of the office without any qualms and not bother too much about the activity of racing.
It is a pity that when the Managing Committee has discarded the ex-chairman from all positions, should it still be carrying forward his legacy of confrontation and litigations and compromise on all that is moral?
One can never tire of stating that all that is required for evil to dominate is for good men to do nothing. The BTC needs to keep its face towards the sunshine so that shadows of misdeeds fall behind it.