Some spice to roll of the dice

Sep 05, 2018, 08:26 IST | Hemal Ashar

Newbies and returnees skew the formula for turf club elections at the Mahalaxmi Racecourse tomorrow

Some spice to roll of the dice
Rahul Bhat and Sunil Jhangiani. Pic/Suresh Karkera

Dust is flying at the Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC) and this time it is not from the horse's hooves. The club has a seven-person committee currently and all are re-contesting the elections to the Turf Club to be held at Mahalaxmi racecourse on September 6 (the e-voting has already begun). There are five new contenders giving an interesting twist to the turf tussle.

Ghost labour
To a question about jumping into the controversial cauldron that the workings of the high-profile club can be at times, candidate Surendra Sanas, 64, retorted, "I am not here to fight, I am here to work. I have been a member of the Pune Turf Clubhouse committee in Pune looking after the infrastructure at the Pune racecourse. I have turned around the finances of the club. I investigated and called out ghost labour in the club." Asked to elaborate on the term ghost labour, Sanas said, "People who were working for three days were being paid for 30 days! That is what I mean by ghost labour. I have also concentrated on reducing sand wastage in Pune. A huge amount of sand was being ordered for the track, but a lot of it was being wasted, I looked into that too."

Surendra Sanas, Shiven Surendranath and Gautam Lala
Surendra Sanas, Shiven Surendranath and Gautam Lala

Members, too
For debutant Shiven Surendranath, "We need fresh thinking on old problems. We have to work with what we have. There has been a lot of whining about how permissions are not being got; the racecourse lease is not being renewed. How about looking at a swimming pool and squash courts in the space that we already have?" Surendranath also said that the club currently rents out its space for various programmes, "where outsiders enter the club, but it should do something for the members too. Hold a food festival for instance, or, a theatre festival for RWITC members."

Package it better
For Rahul Bhat it is about, "bringing in more people to the racecourse, making this about lifestyle and making intelligent use of the space that we have. I have seen racing in France, UK and Ireland where it has charm and panache, we need to bring that here." Bhat was told that racing officials have been using the 'lifestyle' hook for years now, in fact, lifestyle events have been promoted so heavily that hard-core racing people are disgusted by the 'tamasha'. Bhat said, "It has to be better packaged."

Be realistic
Every year as elections come around, candidates make promises of bringing in more people into the racecourse, offering more facilities. Sunil Jhangiani, a contestant who has been a committee member earlier, admitted that, "some of this has been spoken about earlier. Yet, we need to go for the low-hanging fruit, which means working with what is in our grasp, "a swimming pool, tennis courts for members, we can look at bringing that in." Jhangiani and Bhat also said they would look towards more professionalism in stewarding, "while the stewards are doing a good job, we can have better training for them," they added.

Fresh minds
Gautam Lala is contesting after first being on the committee in 2002 "when I was 31" then again in 2009. "I just think that fresh minds can bring a lot to the table," signed off Lala. The buzzwords seem to be young, fresh, new and different. Some think it is the old guard that knows the club best, others opine that the committee needs an infusion of new blood, as 'fatigue' has set in. With e-voting on, the die has already been cast and the gates have slammed open for some of the most hotly and bitterly contested seats in Indian racing.

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