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BTC maintains a deafening silence

  September 14 , 2021

There is no certainty as to when racing can resume in Bangalore. After an aborted attempt to get racing going with a day`s racing on August 7, the season has been kept suspended. There is no official word from the Managing Committee whether they would be able to resume racing this season at all. The professionals have been left in the lurch. The racehorse owners have been a harried lot paying Basic Maintenance Fee month after month. The trainers cannot prepare their wards without a target in mind.

It is needless to say that the BTC is controlled by a handful of people who have no commitment to the sport except for the benefits that the position gives to them. Unfortunately, BTC ended up having a chairman who is unable to give leadership when racing is in a crisis due to the Pandemic. The other senior man who literally controls the show is Harimohan Naidu who is busier with GST tours. He got elected on the promise of getting the GST committee to change its punitive 28 per cent tax on the turnover. The BTC members voted him for one more term believing in his bluff. There is no progress as far as the GST Board giving any concession except that Naidu is busy with his GST tourism. The relief if any will come in natural course correction and not because somebody like Naidu could make a difference.

The BTC must come clean on its interaction with the government. Nobody knows whether the government is acceptable to conducting racing without spectators but BTC does not want to conduct racing in such a scenario. With the nimbus of a third wave hovering around, there is very little likelihood of the government easing its restriction. The club does not have any clout with the government. The club could get concessions from the government only because the Principal Secretary to the Government I S N Prasad was helpful and believed that any economic activity is good in the interests of revenue accumulation for the government. The shenanigans of the committee have also disappointed him and he too seems to have given up. However, he has done the club a favour by getting the cabinet to approve online betting on horse racing. There are many hurdles before it could come through as it has to be adopted by the legislature unless there are ways to bypass it.

The Managing Committee has let Naidu call the shots resulting in him creating enemies to the club. His refusal to guide the club to take a conciliatory approach in all its dealings has hurt the club. Because of the highhanded actions of the club, the club is facing several cases which is costing the club a fortune. The mandarins would have had nothing much to lose because it is the public money that they are wasting. The online betting permission was a boon but the club lost it because of the many enemies it has created. One of the disgruntled ex-employees went on public interest litigation against online betting. The club, instead of placating him, chose to ignore resulting in the government withdrawing the permission. If online betting had continued, the club would have benefited immensely.

The Managing Committee`s arrogance in refusing to address issues concerning the stable conditions and the welfare of horses has also cost the club dear. Instead of attending to the issues, the club took a high-handed action of stopping the complainer from entering the racecourse, resulting in CUPA, an animal welfare organization knocking on the doors of the High Court with a PIL. What CUPA wanted was humane conditions for the horses which is the primary reason for the existence of the club. The club did not bother to call the CUPA functionaries to sort out the issues but instead chose to fight the battle in the courts.

Naidu is the Chairman of the Legal Cell of the club. One is not sure what his intentions are in making the club a litigant. There have been 29 hearings in the case filed by CUPA. The lawyers don`t come cheap and every attendance at the hearing is bound to cost the club to the tune of Rs 3 lakhs or more. This means that the club has spent about a crore of rupees merely to fight a case to justify their refusal to create habitable conditions for horses! Nothing can be more damaging than this attitude of the Managing Committee.

The High Court has directed the club to take up the renovation of the stables. If the club had taken up the work on its own all these years, the entire stables could have been less expensive than what the club is going to incur now under the court`s orders especially when a financial crisis is staring at the club. Can the club mandarins justify this wasteful expenditure? The club had no qualms about spending crores of rupees for the comfort of members. The lop-sided priorities of the management have hurt both the image and the sport irreparably.

There was some hope that the elections to the Managing Committee which is held on the last Monday of September would bring in fresh faces who could be free of prejudice if not anything else. There is no sign of the elections. One cannot understand why the club cannot prepare its balance sheet when there was hardly any activity. Even when the club was at its peak, with Rs 2000 crore turnover, there was never any delay in conducting the elections. It is clear that some of the retiring members who are ineligible to contest want to continue their foray possibly to complete their unfinished agenda.

In the absence of a questioning membership of the club, the failings of the Managing Committee have seriously impaired the sport. The callous disregard to the plight of racing enthusiasts including the professionals and the investors in the sport is shocking.

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