Row over presidential candidate leaves FHRAI headless, affects hotel industry

New Delhi, Nov 17 (UNI) A dispute over the selection of the head of the Federation of Hotel and Restaurant Associations of India (FHRAI), an apex body of hoteliers in the country, has left the industry body headless, affecting the tourism and hospitality sector.

The row occurred following the rejection of the nominee of the eastern regional chapter of the FHRAI as president at the annual general meeting of the association last month.
The FHRAI has four regional chapters — east, west, north and south — with the president selected from one region every year by rotation.

According to the FHRAI constitution, it was the turn of the eastern region this year. Accordingly, the hotels and restaurants association of India (HRAEI) nominated Sudesh Poddar as the presidential candidate from the region. 
As per the precedent, the nomination sent by the regional association is accepted by the executive committee after the AGM of the association.

However, in a meeting chaired by Garish Oberoi, the immediate past president of the association, Poddar’s unanimous selection from the eastern region was rejected. 
Even after three members from the region offered the post turned it down, the association stuck to its decision to reject the nomination of Poddar.

Further, Gurbaxish Singh Kohli from Mumbai and the vice-president of the association was selected as the interim president.
Members of he HRAEI said that at the meeting of the AGM, the association elected the other office bearers to form the board of the FHRAI, bypassing the election of the President.
”They have elected the other office bearers to form the board of the FHRAI, bypassing the election of the president and have made Gurbax Singh Kohli from west, the interim president of FHRAI. The honorary secretary and the joint honorary secretary were also chosen from the western zone. After east, next being term of western zone, we will have president and major office bearers from western zone for two consecutive years, in gross violation of FHRAI constitution,” a statement issued by HRAEI said.

Members of the eastern chapter alleged that the members of the other three regions had teamed up to reject the nomination of Poddar.
Said Poddar, the HRAEI nominbee for president,’’I had asked on what ground my nomination was rejected. But there was no explanation.’’
The HRAEI said that the dispute has arisen due changes in FHRA constitution, affected in 2010 whereby a member of the body’s executive committee had to compulsorily retire after eight years.
After a period of two years, the person can again be nominated to the board for another term not exceeding four years.

Accordingly, in 2018 eight executive committee members were due to retire from the FHRAI board, including the immediate past president.
However, at an executive committee meeting in Mumbai in 2017, it was proposed that the clause under which the existing members retire should be removed so that they can remain on the board in perpetuity. 
The members from the eastern chapter had called for deliberation and discussion before the removal of the clause.
At the October meet of the AGM of the FHRAI , the retiring members garnered support and passed the clause by numerical strength despite dissent from the east.

”Due to objections raised by the Eastern Region and taking righteous stand, different from what others wanted, the majority members have taken vindictive attitude against Eastern region. Members of this region are constantly being suppressed,”the president of the Hotel and Restaurant association of Easter India Pranab Singh said.
At a recent meeting of the Hotel and Restaurant Association of Eastern India last week, Sudesh Poddar, originally selected as the candidate for president, was again backed up by the members for the post. 
The row over the head of the FHRAI could impact the tourism and hospitality sector in the country as the association has in its ambit nearly 4000 hotels and restaurants across India.

Sources said the regional chapter would convey its latest decision to the national association. 
Members of the Hotel and restaurant association of East Indua say that in case the decision is not accepted by the national body, they could approach the National companies law tribunal against the decision by the FHRAI AGM after seeking legal opinion.