It is touted as a “green oasis in the heart of the city”. Its vision is to “bring people to nature”. One of its missions is to “emerge as a respectable institution for advanced learning”.
But with 72 hours to go for its annual general meeting (AGM), the 182-year-old Agri-Horticulture Society of India (AHSI) is a hotbed of internal politicking, involving some of the biggest names of our business arena.
Bickering bloomed over “vested interests and proxy voting” on the 21.48 acres of Alipore greens on Wednesday, with two of the Society patrons — R.P. Goenka and B.M. Khaitan — issuing a statement to all members, urging them not to work as “separatist groups” and “jeopardise growth”. Should this malaise continue, warned Goenka and Khaitan, “it would be well nigh impossible” for them to continue as patrons.
This was triggered by a “flurry of letters” circulated by some members, culminating in one from the third patron. S.G. Khaitan. These letters levelled allegations ranging from lack of transparency to financial irregularities against a section of members.
A member close to Khaitan said on Wednesday: “The Society is being run in a high-handed manner by a precious few… We are having an AGM after around two years. Elections are taking place a full five months after nominations were invited. Proxy voting decides the winner here. The Society is financially bleeding.”
R.P. Goenka made his stand clear to Metro later in the evening: “This (the AHSI) is a place for recreation, where people come to spend some quality time. Politics has no place here and we want to get rid of such politicking by a section of the members. We were saddened with the developments and so we decided to try our bit to change things. And we are confident that things will return to normal within the next the seven days.”
Society president M.K. Jalan rubbished the charges brought against the ‘ruling club’. “We have introduced a transparent accounting system and the Society, after a long time, is generating surplus revenue through various activities,” he asserted.
Saturday’s AGM will see 23 contestants fighting it out to book a berth in the all-important 12-member council of the Society. But there will be no contest for the posts of president, senior vice-president and vice-president.