The army and the Indian Air Force (IAF) have locked horns to wrest control of the 95-year-old Delhi Gymkhana Club, which has the likes of Rahul Gandhi and LK Advani as its members.
The cracks between the two services have come out in the open with director general (infantry) Lieutenant General Rajender Singh (due to retire shortly) and former Western Air Command chief Air Marshal PS Ahluwalia filing nomination papers for the president's post.
The prestigious club has a waiting list of over 35 years for membership.
The fight for the presidential post evokes a sense of déjà vu as Ahluwalia was last year pitted against then army chief General JJ Singh. He, however, withdrew from the elections to prevent the situation from assuming ugly proportions. But not before, a compromise formula was worked out and the army camp assured that it would not field a candidate for the next elections.
Outgoing club president and former R&AW chief AS Dulat and former army chief General OP Malhotra were aware of the compromise formula. "We opted for a no-contest situation last year in the interest of the services, but the army has not kept its part of the deal. It's very unfortunate," said a club member from the air force lobby. The army camp, however, says nothing prevents General Rajender Singh from contesting the elections.
The Gymkhana Club presidentship, which generally rotates between the armed forces and bureaucrats, is for a two-year term. But General Singh relinquished the post this January after being appointed Arunachal Pradesh governor. In the run-up to the September 26 elections, both the army and air force camps are lobbying hard to have their candidate to elected as president.
A former president of the club, not wishing to be named, told HT, "Such infighting is in bad taste. It is against military ethos." The club has around 5,600 permanent members of whom 1,600 are likely to vote for the president and general committee elections. The club has 623 serving and retired army officers as members compared to the air force's 147 and navy's 127.