Mumbai Race club to meet CM Fadnavis on 15 per cent fracas

Committee to meet on Monday to finalise representation on latest turf challenge

The 15 per cent controversy continues to simmer at the Mahalaxmi Racecourse, after the end of the Mumbai racing season. The state government has put an addendum in the Horse Race Licence issued by the government to the Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC) for 2015-2016 and 2016-2017, saying that members must have more than 15 per cent attendance at the races to be considered eligible to vote in elections to the committee. The elections for the new RWITC committee, which has a one-year tenure, will be held in September this year.

Crowds at the Mahalaxmi Racecourse on Derby day
Crowds at the Mahalaxmi Racecourse on Derby day

The order, which has set the cat amongst the racing pigeons, with ruffled feathers flying everywhere, was pushed by government nominee to the stewards’ body, Vijay Shirke. Shirke, when asked for a response to the current imbroglio, had no comments. “I will call you back,” he said hurriedly over the phone, but never did and refused to answer any question.

Vijay Shirke (left) with his horse, Noble Eagle, at Mahalaxmi Racecourse
Vijay Shirke (left) with his horse, Noble Eagle, at Mahalaxmi Racecourse

The RWITC’s nine-man committee held a meeting at the Mahalaxmi Racecourse on Monday, where they decided the way forward. There were two absentees, K Dhunjibhoy and J Mody. The committee, after debate and some dissension, agreed to send a representation to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis post-May 9, when yet another committee meeting is supposed to be held with reference to the issue.

The club does not want to take the matter to court, and hopes it is resolved with the CM, seeing what they say are the ‘flaws’ of this proposal.

An excerpt from the addendum dated April 26, and signed by Additional Chief Secretary (Home), KP Bakshi, states: “The Club shall keep a regular record of the attendance of all members including club members at the races, held either in Mumbai or Pune. Club shall install and activate the necessary advanced machineries for registration of attendance of the members/club members at Mumbai/Pune immediately. It shall ensure that club members are actual race goers. If the percentage of attendance of such club members for a particular year is more than 15 per cent, such club members will be entitled to vote in the ensuing election for that particular year only.”

Vivek Jain, RWITC media and marketing chief, adds that Shirke has been pressing the state government to issue this addendum to the racing license. “Additional Chief Secretary KP Bakshi had called me for a discussion at the end of March, along with Shirke, to debate this issue. Shirke pressed that this be added to the ‘licence to race’ given by the government to the club.”

The RWITC does not want to take on the government legally because of a pending lease issue.

The RWITC has about a 2,000-strong member voter base, of which roughly 1,200 members turn up to cast their votes annually. The elections are typically hotly contested, high profile affairs, given the stature of western India’s apex racing body.

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