This is probably a first for Indian sports — and for the Election Commission of India! Tired of the endless saga over whether the Hockey India elections will ever happen and embarrassed by the fact that the international hockey federation (FIH) has deemed it fit to appoint its own observer for its Indian chapter’s elections, the government may be planning on asking the Election Commission to oversee matters.
Speaking to the Hindustan Times, joint secretary (sports) in the Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports, Injeti Sriniwas, said, “These are extraordinary circumstances. In order to ensure fair and transparent elections within a stipulated timeframe, we are even considering asking the Election Commission to send observers. We want to ensure that legitimate people compete in the elections. We also want to set up a mechanism where complaints can be received from all the aggrieved parties and solved by competent people.”
As the Election Commission is a constitutional body mandated only to conduct parliamentary and state elections, it cannot technically handle a sports body’s elections, but it can probably provide advice on how it can be run. And given that Sports Minister MS Gill is a former chief election commissioner himself, perhaps he could request another former CEC to handle matters directly.
Asserting that the priority of the ministry was to hold elections before the six-month deadline given by the FIH expired, Sriniwas said, “We know too well that we risk losing the World Cup (scheduled to be held here in February-March 2010) and so have to adhere to the deadline. But before that, a lot of issues need sorting out…issues relating to the erstwhile state units affiliated to the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF). Their voices too should be heard.
“Besides, there are issues of the merger of the men’s and women’s bodies at the state level too. We might or might not send observers there, but a call would be made once the elections are announced,” he added.
Meanwhile, Hockey India president in-charge Ashok Mattoo confirmed that the FIH had issued a letter letting them know that they would be appointing someone to see how India conducted its elections, but added that he was yet to receive it. “The FIH has conveyed to us that a letter on the appointment of an observer had been issued… we'll receive it soon. So for now, I cannot say who the FIH observer for the elections will be," said Mattoo, who is also the treasurer of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA).