The battle to wrest control of the 95-year-old Delhi Gymkhana Club is getting bloodier. It is now being alleged that director-general (infantry) Lieutenant General Rajender Singh, a serving army officer, has not obtained the mandatory sanction from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to contest the presidential election.
MoD sources told HT that all serving officers of the rank of brigadier and above need to obtain permission from the ministry for taking part in such activities. They said General Rajender Singh had not obtained the required sanction.
However, members lobbying for the army candidate, who is pitched against former Western Air Command chief Air Marshal P.S. Ahluwalia, claim that the general is contesting the elections only after getting the necessary authorisation from the Army headquarters.
“He got the clearance from the army deputy chief last month as per rules. There is nothing wrong with his candidature,” a member supporting the army officer said. General Rajender Singh is due to retire on November 30.
Incidentally, both former army chief General J.J. Singh and Air Marshal P.S. Ahluwalia had obtained MoD clearance before entering the presidential race last year, as they were both serving then.
Not many are willing to buy the argument put forth by General Rajender Singh’s camp. Those who have pledged loyalty to Ahluwalia find it strange that a serving army officer has not sought MoD approval before throwing his hat in the ring. “The election results will be declared on September 26 when the army officer would still be in uniform. It’s a bit strange that he did not deem fit to seek the ministry’s go-ahead,” said a veteran member.
The fight for the presidential post evokes grim déjà vu as Ahluwalia was last year pitted against General J.J. 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.
But the army camp now pleads ignorance about any such formula. The club has a waiting list of over 35 years for membership.
Serving defence officers, however, say the presidential contest should not be construed as army-air force rivalry, as the services have no role to play in it. A senior army officer said, “They are both contesting as individuals and the services should not be dragged into club affairs.”
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. The new president will hold the post for one year.
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.