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SOME OF US HAVE A NATUL URGE TO BE REGARDED AS leaders. Politicians are not the only ones affected by this craving. Witness the enormous efforts that are made by civil servants, policeman, the armed forces, even former judges, cabinet secretaries, governors and ambassadors to get elected as the presidents of three prestigious clubs in Delhi. I asked several colleague members what it meant to them in terms of achievement. The usual response was: ‘you are recognised as a mover and shaker’, ‘you count’, ‘you are popular’, ‘you wield enormous authority’. And so it is that the elections to the Delhi Gymkhana, the Delhi Golf Club and the India International Centre become a whole-time occupation not just for the contestants, their wives, progeny and friends but entire constituencies who perceive the election as an intense caste war among the professions.

Electioneering for club positions requires tremendous vision, foresight and organisation. Not only do the aspirants have to access the names of anything between 2,000 to 5,000 members in each club, they have to eliminate octogenarians and migrants to other parts of the world or the country who are unlikely to come and vote. So why waste time on them? Constituencies are marked not just by professions (lAS, IPS, armed forces) but also by the Alma Mater, the wives circuit, the sports circuit, the card circuit, the culture circuit. It is therefore necessary to identify such groups within groups with initiative and resourcefulness. Just as in normal political elections, lobbying has to be done through promises, home visits, a charismatic handshake, when it comes to clubs, it is important to cultivate voters with cocktails, dinners, telephone calls, and letters, recalling past camaraderie, howsoever remote.

Some imagine that ‘greatness has been thrust upon them’ in the style Shakespeare’s Malvolio in Twelfth Night. Such pretenders to the throne habitually cut into the vote banks of winnable candidates, despite receiving ample advice that they are now a spent force. Polling at club elections is overseen with great expectation. Exit polls continue all evening with a slew of predictions from Delhi’s ubiquitous all-knowers. The announcement of the result usually takes place late at night as celiphones resonate with who has won and who has lost, breaking news into dinner parties and bedrooms. The exit polls and final outcomes are then analysed through incisive post-mortems, with hair raising stories of who manipulated how much and how. In the absence of an Election Commission to oversee the whole election process and minus the K.J. Rao counterparts itching to pounce on unfair practices, club elections have alas, to be left to post mortems and commiseration. The thrill of a countermanded election, an ‘off with his head’ fiat from Ashoka Road are certainly lacking — a gap that needs to be filled at least for the fun of it!

The funny thing about voting in clubs is how people perceive the importance of winning. One of my colleagues told me, “But you have not seen the salute you get from the darwan at the club foyer when you are the president”. And this when the aspirants may well be flying the flag or brandishing crowns, swords, stars and three lions on their shoulders while zooming around with sirens that wax and wane even as huge cherries flash atop their cars. Ultimately, for all the salutes one may garner elsewhere, the salute of the club darwan matters the most.


    Aditya said:
    August 28, 2010 at 3:12 AM

    Hahah, a well written and most entertaining article. The schmoozing which goes on for the presidency of these clubs is amazing. And yet, it is all part of a ‘system’. The Delhi Gymkhana, for instance, follows a staid alternating system between chairmen from the civil services and chairmen from the defence services. Despite media hype (by reporters who aren’t members, and are never likely to be), the system is respected. When Air Mshl Ahluwalia stood for reelection during the “civil service” year, most defence service members felt it was “not quite done”, and in fact sided with Prakash Chandra (the civil service candidate). (Note that non-government members are not even mentioned in this ‘system’! They dont stand a chance!). I loved your comment about the huge flashing cherries. Amazing to think that Cabinet Secretaries who run the entire bureaucracy, and Generals, at whose mildest command, tens, if not hundreds of thousands of soldiers leap to attention, should care so much about the salute of a humble darwan! Your blog is most entertaining. Do please keep it up. I liked the helicopter story a lot too.

      Shailaja Chandra responded:
      August 28, 2010 at 2:33 PM

      Thanks Aditya. We are so bothered about how the world sees us . Have a look at “Kahan Ho AAJ Kal?” in similar vein. If you cant find it tell me. Shailaja

    V Malik said:
    September 28, 2013 at 10:24 AM

    Does the Delhi Gym permit convicts and criminals to stand for elections as well as retain membership and also, do they have the NOTA option on their ballots please?

      Shailaja Chandra responded:
      September 28, 2013 at 10:30 AM

      No, I don’t think so.But the very fact that the election is hotly contested certainly shows that democracy is alive and kicking!

        V Malik said:
        September 28, 2013 at 10:39 AM

        If democracy was really alive and kicking at the Delhi Gymkhana Club then staff members and their adult children would also be taking part in the Club elections, unless you can think of a cogent reason why they should not, please? If democracy was alive and kicking, Delhi Gymkhana Club would have been converted into a public hospital for Arogya also long ago. If democracy was alive and kicking there wouldn’t be so many Government staff cars and official cars outside the Delhi Gym this morning. If democracy was alive and kicking serving Public Servants would not be standing for elections at the Delhi Gymkhana Club. And finally, if democracy was really alive and kicking, Delhi Gymkhana Club would adhere to the RTI Act of India. Humbly submitted.

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