Dirty tricks and private parties marr elections at Delhi’s elite Gymkhana Club

Glamour and gutter politics clash as four candidates vie to head the 100-year-old high-life establishment

Delhi

With India’s current prime minister and vice-president among its members and with a history dating back to the British Raj, the Delhi Gymkhana Club has always fancied itself as the most elite of the capital’s social establishments. For the military officers, bureaucrats and other VIPs who enjoy its dining rooms and quiet, clipped lawns, the election of president is an important fixture in the calendar.

But this year, with the club located in the heart of Lutyens Delhi celebrating its centenary and with the candidates including a former spy chief and a serving senior civil servant, the election has taken a controversial turn. There have been allegations of “dirty tricks” and claims some candidates are trying to lure supporters with glamorous drinks parties.

The candidates in the four-way contest are Vijay Chhibber, a senior civil servant in the department of transport; Avtar Singh Dulat, a former head of the Research and Analysis Wing, India’s foreign intelligence agency; retired senior police officer BL Vohra, and Urmila Gupta, a former senior official at Doordarshan, India’s state broadcaster. If Ms Gupta wins she would be the first woman president in the club’s 100-year history.

Ahead of Friday’s vote by the 5,600 potential voting members, Indian newspapers have been trying to guess the outcome with most reckoning the race will come down to a battle between Mr Chibber, 58, and Mr Dulat, 72, who has previously served as president. They have also contained details of receptions in five star hotels being thrown by some of the candidates. High-end linen has been washed in public.

On Tuesday, Mr Vohra said unlike his three opponents he had not thrown any parties. He said he was also unhappy that Mr Dulat, who was once former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s adviser on Kashmir, was seeking a second term.

“I’d say it is rather sad what has happened,” he said. “The other three are giving lavish parties. It should be based on merit...[But] it’s like buying votes with liquor.”

Mr Dulat, 72, said he had been hosting parties for potential supporters but said there had been “nothing outside of the club”. He said seeking a second term was within the club’s rules. As to whether this election was different from previous, he said: “It’s centenary year and there is a little more excitement than before.”

Ms Gupta, who said women could only vote at the club since 1985, said whereas the club’s officers were once elected over handshakes and a spirit of good-will, the last few elections had been increasingly aggressive and competitive. She said power politics was at play and that the “dirty tricks departments” of the main candidates were making claims about the others.

She said Mr Dulat and Mr Chhibber had held dozens of parties. She had one party thrown for her by an old friend, she said. “Certain factions are out to settle scores,” said Ms Gupta, who had been a club member for 34 years.

Mr Chhibber said a dirty tricks campaign had been underway and that he had been the victim of false information that had been spread . “It’s very true. I’m surprised that people are resorting to this,” he said. He claimed Mr Dulat was breaking the club’s conventions by seeking a second term.

As to his supporters hosting parties for him, he said he was happy to attend any event to which he was invited. “I have no hesitation,” he said.

It is not the first time an election at the club have made headlines. In 2007, the newspapers were full of reports of a clash between army chief Gen JJ Singh and a senior member of the air force, PS Ahluwalia. In the end a deal was struck.

The Gymkhana Club’s outgoing president is retired Air Marshall Naresh Verma. Asked if anything untoward was happening ahead of the vote, he replied: “Nothing at all.”


Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him
musicIndie music promoter was was a feature at Carter gigs
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Performers dressed as Tunnocks chocolate teacakes, a renowned Scottish confectionary, perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
news
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Sport
Arsenal signing Calum Chambers
sportGunners complete £16m transfer of Southampton youngster
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

ICT Teacher

£21804 - £31868 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a qualified ...

DT Design and Technology Teacher

£21804 - £31868 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: We are urgently for ...

Maths Teacher

£21804 - £31868 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you an experienc...

Junior / Graduate Application Support Engineer

£26000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful international media organ...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on