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It’s Armed forces vs civil services at Gymkhana Club polls

As the high-profile Gymkhana Club gears up for its presidential elections the politics of this exclusive club has entered public domain.

Written by Express News Service | New Delhi |
September 16, 2009 12:38:52 am

As the high-profile Gymkhana Club gears up for its presidential elections the politics of this exclusive club has entered public domain.

At the heart of the contest are the current president Air Marshal (Retd) P S Ahluwalia and the Director General of International Taxation and member of Indian Revenue Services Prakash Chandra.

As the election day — September 26 — nears,supporters of both contestants have upped their struggle to promote their candidate.

Ahluwalia,who had also contested the election in 2007 against the then serving Army Chief J J Singh,only to bow out just before the election,still remains popular among most members of the club.

“Club legend has it,and it is true,that a deal was brokered wherein Air Marshal Ahluwalia was asked to step down in the (2007) election with the understanding that he could contest the election the next year,” a retired General in the Army and permanent member of the Club says.

And true to the legend,Ahluwalia stood for the 2008 elections and was voted the president.

Meanwhile,backing Chandra is “a faction of retired military officials,” that vehemently opposes Ahluwalia’s bid for re-election.

“Since 1947,this club has followed an unwritten convention which dictates that the presidency of the Club will be rotated between the (Armed) forces and the civil services every two years. We have had presidents from the armed forces for the last two years and therefore,in keeping with the convention,Ahluwalia ought to withdraw,” a retired Lieutenant-General of the Army and former president of the club says.

“Despite being from the armed forces,a whole lot of us have decided to support Prakash Chandra,” the former president says.

 The Ahluwalia camp,meanwhile,recently circulated a letter signed by at least three former presidents of the Club — both from the civil and defence services — among Club members.

“A simple look at the list of presidents in the foyer will indicate that the convention of giving two years to an elected president is more predominant than the convention of alternately choosing presidents from the defence and civil services,” the letter reads.

The letter goes on to say that as in the past years,the Club president should at least “be of secretary rank,” thereby implying that Chandra does not qualify for presidency.

The claim,however,is refuted by a former president of the Club: “There is no such thing. I was not of secretary rank,yet I was elected president. Besides,Chandra is empanelled to become a secretary soon.”

Ahluwalia,however,seems to have an edge when it comes to the daily administrative functions of the Club.

“Last year has seen the Club do very well and it is all thanks to Ahluwalia. For the first time we have an operating surplus of Rs 276 lakh and the overall services in the Club have seen a vast improvement. It is only fair that he is given another term to uphold the high standards he has set,” a member of the club said.

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