The Equestrian Federation of India does not know the difference between horses and dogs. The EFI, which has its organisational elections on Sunday, that is today, has listed 15 Army canine units as its members. "Each of these units has two votes that will come in handy during the elections. For Sunday's elections, these dog units have 30 votes. Often these bodies act as proxies and this is a very clever way to muster support for a particular person during the elections," said a member of the EFI on the condition of anonymity.
These units, according to the EFI list, are, 21 Army Dog Unit, 22 Army Dog Unit, 4 Army Dog Unit, 2 Army Dog Unit, 14 Army Dog Unit, 16 Army Dog Unit, 5 Army Dog Unit, 17 Army Dog Unit, 8 Army Dog Unit, 3 Army Dog Unit, 23 Army Dog Unit, 24 Army Dog Unit, 13 Army Dog Unit, 19 Army Dog Unit and 11 Army Dog Unit. The EFI has a total of 147 unit members.
The EFI, which although it comes under the National Sports Federation (NSF), is "controlled" by the Indian Army. It is mandatory for the EFI president to be a Quarter Master General (QMG) from the Army. At present, out of the eight executive committee members, only one is a civilian. Sunday's elections will be for the posts of secretary general, vice president (technical), vice president (finance), joint secretary general, member dressage and member jumping. The EFI, which is recognised by the government, sends its riders to all blue riband events such as the Olympics and Asian and Commonwealth Games.
According to the EFI member, in 2010 as well the presence of these dog units was detected just before the elections. "But nothing could be done as the discovery was made right on the eve of the elections. Once the elections were over, the membership of most of the dog units was scrapped," he alleged.
When asked how these dog units found their way into EFI, a bureaucrat in the Ministry of Sports admitted ignorance. "I do not know how such a thing could have happened. We will soon look into the matter," he promised.
Also, in EFI, individuals have voting rights. "I fail to understand how individuals enjoy voting rights. In no other sports body functioning under the NSF is there any provision for any individuals with voting rights. But the EFI is allowing certain individuals to vote. This is unprecedented and some action has to be taken to curb this," said a former EFI official who preferred to remain anonymous.
The official alleged that these individuals double up as proxies and help in voting for the president. On several occasions, they had sent signed and stamped blank proxy forms and authorised letters to the Army HQ, which could have been used for nomination, he alleged.
"I think the EFI must be the only sports body in the country which does not have any politician on board. In fact the last time a politician tried to contest (Pallam Raju, who was a UPA minister in 2010), he beat a hasty retreat as he found no support from the body. So EFI remains by and large an Army controlled organisation," said a former member.
When asked about this, an Army media source said that the EFI was a national federation and governed by rules of both the Indian Olympic Association and the Ministry of Sports; it has its own laws and is responsible to the government and that the Army HQ had nothing to do with the functioning of an autonomous national sports body.