Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has taken charge of Commonwealth Games preparations, which continue to spiral out of control just less than a month and half before the event begins. He has handed over control to his top political and bureaucratic leadership, pushing Suresh Kalmadi and the Organising Committee (OC) to the sidelines.
The PM empowered a Group of Ministers (GoM) headed by urban development minister Jaipal Reddy and asked it to meet immediately and frequently. Empowering the GoM means it can take and implement decisions by itself. That’s exactly what the PM has asked it to do — take all decisions to ensure Games deadlines are met and the event goes off smoothly.
The GoM will hold its first meeting on Sunday.
In a severe indictment of the Kalmadi-led OC, the PM said those found guilty of the many corruption charges should face severe and exemplary punishment. He directed all ministries involved in Games preparations to thoroughly investigate all complaints of procedural and other irregularities.
Sources close to Kalmadi, however, said the OC chairman’s powers have not been curtailed.
The PM also said there have been “slippages” in time schedules and deficiencies in various Games project. To demonstrate his intent, he decided to visit select Games venues himself in the last week of August to take stock of the situation.
Earlier, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit met Congress chief Sonia Gandhi to brief her about overall preparations.
PM Singh’s action came a day after the Congress brass deliberated on the matter at the meeting of the party's Core Group. With the image of the OC taking a battering after a string of corruption charges against its top official, including Kalmadi, the PM also put in charge cabinet secretary K.M. Chandrashekhar to oversee preparations and directed him to liaise closely with the GoM to ensure effective coordination among concerned authorities.
The PM also made it clear the government will depute its top officers to the OC as and when required. The Committee of Secretaries, headed by the cabinet secretary, will continue to review implementation and have the status of an Empowered Committee.
The meeting was attended by Dikshit, Kalmadi, Reddy, Chandrashekhar, M.S. Gill, L-G Tejendra Khanna, PS to the PM T.K.A. Nair, among others.
It is, however, not the first time the PMO has had to step in to reign in the chaos surrounding the Games. In Nov 2009, worried over shoddy preparations, the PMO had deputed four officials to the OC, including OC CEO Jarnail Singh, to ensure the Games are held on schedule. But the move did little to rein in the mess the OC and other agencies have embroiled themselves in.