Govt move to manoeuvre its way into BTC raises hackles

Club told to waive its rules to accommodate 150 new members

Govt move to manoeuvre its  way into BTC raises hackles

The prestigious Bangalore Turf Club (BTC), one of the oldest horse-racing clubs in the country, may well become just a social club if the Siddaramaiah government has its way.

The government has been arm-twisting the 150-year-old BTC to expand its membership strength to 500 from 350 as a one-time measure in an apparent effort to obtain memberships for some of its loyal and influential associates, mostly politicians and bureaucrats.

The State Finance Department (FD), in a letter dated June 27, asked the BTC to empower its Managing Committee to elect the new members, circumventing the election process being followed in the Club. It has been reliably learnt that the FD wrote to the BTC following the Chief Minister’s direction.

As per the Memorandum and Articles of Association (MAA) of the BTC, the general body has the power to elect new, permanent members. Elections are conducted only if there are more than five vacancies. One has to secure the signatures of three existing members as proposers to contest the elections.

If Siddaramaiah has his way, 150 people will straightway become members, without going through the election process and related rules of the BTC. It is learnt that the chief minister has asked one of his close aides, who is also a BTC member, to prepare a list of membership aspirants who are his loyalists.

The letter, a copy of which is available with this newspaper, is signed by FD Principal Secretary I S N Prasad, who is also an ex-officio member of the Managing Committee. The BTC membership was last increased in 1979. The government can nominate only three stewards and one committee member in a financial year, as per the MAA and cannot poke its nose in the day-to-day affairs of the club.

But the BTC has been under the mercy of the State government ever since the Karnataka High Court in 2010 ordered it to vacate the land where the club is located, off Race Course Road. Subsequent governments have neither renewed the lease agreement with the BTC nor entered into a fresh agreement, leaving the race club on tenterhooks.

What has come as a shock to the BTC is the way the government has asked it to create a backdoor entry by amending the MAA. “The Government of Karnataka desires that the following proposals be considered and adopted by the Bangalore Turf Club Ltd: (1) To increase membership from 350 to 500, so as to broadbase membership. (2) To empower the Managing Committee of the Club to elect new Members...The Managing Committee will elect 150 Club members as a one-time measure and the same shall revert to the Articles of Association once the process is completed,” the FD letter stated.

The ruling Congress has a long list of leaders who have interest in horse racing. Housing Minister M H Ambareesh, Home Minister K J George, Bellary City MLA and mines owner Anil Lad, senior party leader Allam Veerabhabrappa are BTC members.
The FD letter has created a furore in the BTC.

Though most members are not against increasing the membership, they are not in favour of amending the rules as suggested by the government. Many of them fear that giving membership to those who neither have any knowledge about horses nor interested in the sport of racing would be disastrous for the BTC administration.

Former BTC chairman and a senior member K M Srinivas Gowda said the present system of elections is a democratic process and it should be followed. It is ideal to increase the membership in a phased manner rather than a one-time measure. Empowering the Managing Committee to increase the membership strength is undemocratic, he added.

G Krishnappa, another senior member, said the government’s move will be detrimental to the BTC. “Already, there is no place at the club. The government does not want any construction to happen inside, but it, at the same time, wants the club to increase its membership. These double standards will not do,” he said.

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