It is now clear that the mess during the run-up to the Commonwealth Games has been due to the delays and shoddy work by various government agencies and not so much because the Organising Committee (OC) has botched things up. It is true that Suresh Kalmadi has become the face of the Games largely because he has decided to accept the blame for the shortcomings of many others. But the time has come to perhaps make Shera, the mascot, the face of the Games and conduct them to the best of our ability.
This certainly does not mean that the people responsible for the goof-ups, like the Delhi government and its allied agencies, the urban development ministry, the sports ministry, the India Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC) and others should be allowed to get away with it. In fact, the prime minister, who himself should share the blame along with the Congress for sleeping over matters, should order an inquiry and have all those responsible for corruption and apathy brought to book.
The Games have shamed the nation during the preparatory stage and it is time that we do our best to make up for the lapses in our hospitality. Equally condemnable has been the attitude of some of the developed countries, Australia in particular, whose prime minister, by her distasteful remarks, has tried to contribute to the increasingly poor relations we have with her country — known for its racism.
A visit to the Games Village indicates that there are world-class facilities available. As many veteran sports journalists said, they are as good as anywhere and certainly better than many Commonwealth and Asian Games they have been to. It has become evident that despite our limitations we may have pulled a rabbit out of the hat but the government agencies have let us down badly.
It is in this context that heads must roll and the Congress, in particular, which heads the government, must prove that it is not status quoist as the prime minister’s media adviser put it a few days ago — a fact borne out by his continuation in his position despite the indiscretion by an official of his standing. So far the media has singled out Kalmadi. As the prime minister himself has put it, he is not the only one to be blamed. Possibly he is the least to be blamed, given that none of the Games venues or the Village have been constructed by the OC but are the creations of the government agencies.
Efforts are on to pass the blame around. In Delhi, the state’s Public Works Department Minister, Raj Kumar Chauhan, may become the first scapegoat, as some of his colleagues put it.
What has been intriguing is the low-key role of the Lieutenant Governor who — by virtue of his position as the administrator of Delhi, the head of the Delhi Development Authority and the nodal authority for interaction with the home ministry and the urban development ministry — should have played a bigger role. Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, Urban Development Minister S. Jaipal Reddy, Sports Minister M.S. Gill and Tourism Minister Kumari Selja will have to answer many uncomfortable questions. The sports minister has, by his bureaucratic approach of long-range supervision, made himself vulnerable and if the Congress decides to prove that it does not believe in status quo, he should not be surprised. The same goes for the others since it is the country that has been shamed and they, as stakeholders, have let Brand India down.
There is less than a week to go and the Delhi and NCR roads are in a mess. The need of the hour is to get down to work on a war-footing and save whatever prestige is possible. In future, no international event of such a nature should be held till we have a strong leadership at the Centre and people of integrity and capability as stakeholders. We must recognise our limitations and should not falsely believe that we are a world power. We are a long way from it. Between us.