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.”


Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Sport
The RBS Six Nations trophy at the Aviva Stadium ahead of Ireland vs England
rugby
News
Campbell: ‘Sometimes you have to be economical with the truth’
newsFormer spin doctor says MPs should study tactics of leading sports figures like José Mourinho
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West found himself at the centre of a critical storm over the weekend after he apparently claimed to be “the next Mandela” during a radio interview
music
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
Voices
Lance Corporal Joshua Leakey VC
voicesBeware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
Alexander McQueen's AW 2009/10 collection during Paris Fashion Week
fashionMeet the collaborators who helped create the late designer’s notorious spectacles
News
i100
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

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?