He may have been forced to relinquish his post because of government rules on tenure and age but Commonwealth Games' (CWG) scam-tainted secretary general Lalit Bhanot is still the boss when it comes to Indian athletics.
Bhanot, who spent several months in custody over allegations of corruption in CWG allotment and procurement process, is a former secretary general of Athletics Federation of India (AFI) and was recently elected secretary general of the suspended Indian Olympic Association.
With his former boss Suresh Kalmadi facing a tough battle to get re-elected as president of the Asian Athletics Association (AAA), Bhanot made a surprise entry into the fray as India's official representative at the two-day AAA Congress that started in Pune on Sunday.
Bhanot's participation in the AAA meetings, evident in his presence in the group photo circulated by the Asian body, the left athletic community stunned as he is not an elected office-bearer of AFI and usually the president or secretary – in this case Adille Sumariwala and CK Valson respectively – represent a national federation at the continental level and one of them casts the vote in elections.
The AFI had in 2008 decided to nominate Kalmadi as its representative in the AAA council, thus making him eligible for contesting elections. Even though he chose to relinquish the AFI post and retain the IOA presidency under government pressure, no decision was taken on who would represent it in the Congress and vote on its behalf. Bhanot, it appears, has wielded his power and taken up that responsibility, denying the elected representatives their due.
Bhanot's presence also queers the pitch for Monday's AAA council elections in which Kalmadi is locked in a straight battle against Qatar's Dahlan Jumaan Al-Hamad. Bhanot still has his backers in AAA as he is expected to pull in some votes in Kalmadi's favour.
AFI officials remained tight-lipped about who nominated Bhanot as India's representative. "I am not a council member and so did not attend the AAA meeting. Ask me only about the Asian Athletics Championship," Sumariwala said when asked why he did not represent India on Sunday.