With just few days to go before the appointment of a new ninemember managing committee, an unusual election fever has the Royal Western India Turf Club in its grips, mainly its members who are closely connected with the sport and the institution both.
And just when it seemed that this year’s election campaign would be uneventful, less vicious and vitriolic than before, few letters written by the candidates and a current Board of Appeal (BoA) member have raised the voting members’ eyebrows.
Meanwhile, the two groups — led by Khushroo Dhunjibhoy and Zavaray Poonawalla — in the fray have also released their respective manifestoes. They are full of interesting titbits but without aclear roadmap for the revival of the club’s fortunes or changing the sport’s image.
Apparently,there is a common theme in the agenda of both groups: addressing the Goods and Services Tax (GST) issue and providing clean/fair racing. The racing fraternity has heard enough of the expected GST relief and about the sport’s honest regulation to realise the worth of these election promises.
However, despite repeated disappointments, the Indian turf administrators are currently quite optimistic that the GST council will take a sympathetic view on their demand for a tax-cut and for good reason.
It’s reliably learnt that breeder Ameeta Mehra has played a key role in getting the GST council officials to lend an ear to Turf Authorities of India’s (TAI) representatives recently. It remains to be seen if these meetings bring about a change of heart in the GST council’s hitherto stance.
Coming back to the letters written to club members, one penned by BoA member Shivlal Daga has caused a stir. Daga, considered to be the most experienced RWITC administrator, has openly campaigned for ZS Poonawalla and his team. Surprisingly, Daga exhorts members to vote for them because they collectively took strong decisions against wrong-doers!
Without naming Jaydev Mody, Daga cautions voting members to be vigilant and not allow persons who want leniency for wrong-doers to come back.
It’s strange that the letter from Poonawalla’s team also harps on the punishment given to jockey PS Chouhan in an incident that took place more than a year ago.
Nobody is questioning Daga’s right to express his opinion but it’s the timing and his silence till date on this incident that is hard to swallow. It’s difficult to comprehend why horse-racing has lost its credibility and is considered “dirty” when upright regulators like Daga have served on the stewards’ body for over three decades.
Furthermore, the most disturbing aspect of the candidates’ letter is that both teams are openly canvassing for BoA aspirants while Daga seeks support for committee members, who then serve as honorary stewards also.
Consequently, would it be wrong if the racing fraternity suspects an unholy nexus between the two regulatory bodies vis-à-vis the disposal of appeals filed by condemned professionals? Be that as it may, so long as the term clean racing remains ambiguous, it is pointless to promise its delivery. Unless the sport is supervised by qualified professionals who are allowed to perform independently without fear or favour, who can guide their superiors accurately, whose decisions are not meddled with, clean racing will be an illusion forever.