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By Ikram Khan
Tuesday 14 Nov 2017
Ikram Khan

BTC has decided to take the bull by the horns – it won’t give away 50 paid memberships to the government in exchange for a racing licence. Some say it is a matter of principle, others are not so impressed

The Rs 2.5-crore carrot that the government dangled in front of the Bangalore Turf Club (BTC) to get 50 memberships of the club has failed. Not only has the 350-member club refused the offer, it has also decided to take the licence battle to court.

More than 25 per cent proxies registered against the resolution to give 50 memberships to government nominees, two days before the Extraordinary General Body Meeting (EGM) scheduled on Wednesday.

In fact, 25 per cent vote is all that is needed to defeat the resolution and with more than 85 proxies registered — and a sizeable number deciding to vote against on Wednesday — it is clear that the club members are ready to take the bull by its horns.

The members are aware that Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, who is adamant on the 50 memberships will not appreciate the big snub, but they reckon that they just cannot allow an entry from the back door.

“It is just not done. A number of present and past ministers, including KJ George, Ambareesh, Anil Lad, K Govindraj, Allum Veerabhadrappa, and eminent personalities such as Justice Santosh Hegde and M Sankaranarayan, among others, have gone through the electoral process and become members. So what is stopping the 50 government nominees from contesting elections seeking memberships? They simply want to crash in and that is not allowed,” said Nandini Basappa, former international basketball star and a former horse owner at the club.

A couple of senior members of the club, not in favour of the resolution disclosed that the real fear is that if the club allows and decides to give in to the government’s demand, it will only open doors for the next government to place a similar demand and the end result will be that a race club will end up as a political club.

When posed with the question that a confrontation with the government could spell disaster, as the government is ready with the CID report on doping, betting mafia and tax evasion issues, the members agreed that it was tricky situation, while pointing out that they have a good case in hand to approach the courts.

Another senior and influential member, on condition of anonymity, revealed that the government is ready with an exclusive Legislators’ club two furlongs from the race club, why then does the government need to push 50 to the BTC.

The many who were in favour of the resolution were not impressed with the views of others, pointed out that in the interest of the sport, the need of the hour was to give in to the government’s demand and gain the licence to start racing at this premier racing centre.

“With no licence to conduct off-course betting and with the winter season in a limbo, the club is on the verge of bankruptcy. The horse owners and the more than 1000 daily wage employees are hit hard. The big investors in the game who loved racing horses at this premier centre are already working out plans to shift out to neighbouring states and that will dent the image of the club. The breeding industry too is suffering; buyers are not ready to purchase, knowing that BTC is under a cloud.

“Fifty memberships to the government is no big deal, considering the fact that without a licence for more than 75 days, the club is bleeding financially. Any further delay could well result in a closed shop, with horses and owners moving out of this centre,” said Zeyn Mirza, managing director of URBB and the Vijay Mallya-owned Kunigal Stud farm.

All said and done, it may take a while before the thunder of hooves will be heard at the race club now that the promised showdown on Wednesday has already been defeated without a vote being cast.