The Hockey India (HI) managing committee’s bid for hastily arranged elections by month-end came to naught on Thursday.
The office-bearers, led by president A.K. Mattoo, were told by both the Sports Ministry in unequivocal terms that elections cannot be held until and unless problems related to the affiliation process are solved in a transparent manner.
However, there is a big victory for Hockey India in this defeat. It may get a chance to postpone the elections till the end of next year’s World Cup.
The Sports Ministry on Thursday opened the window for postponing the elections indefinitely by asking HI to first tackle the concerns on the affiliation process in a fair and transparent manner by giving a hearing to every stakeholder in the disaffiliated Indian Hockey Federation (IHF).
In a letter to HI, the Sports Ministry has said elections have to be preceded by a proper affiliation process and state units should be formed in a transparent and fair manner. “They have to ensure that everybody has been given due hearing and they can’t ignore anyone’s claim without due consideration,” Injeti Srinivas, join secretary, Sports Ministry, told HT over phone from New Delhi.
“We understand they are hurrying with the elections so as to meet the FIH deadline but that can’t be the reason to ignore due process. Satisfying every stakeholder in a fair and transparent manner is equally important,” Srinivas said. The reason the government has softened its stand is because allowing HI to ignore any state association could lead to a court cases.
It is believed that HI will now present the govt letter to an FIH delegation that reached New Delhi on Thursday and met representatives of some state associations led by Bengal Hockey Association (BHA) president JB Roy and Amrit Bose, former secretary of Indian Women’s Hockey Federation. The delegation of state associations also met the Ministry’s observer to apprise him of their concerns.
“We met the observer and he informed us that our concerns over the affiliation process would be met before elections are held,” said BHA secretary Gurbux Singh, a former India captain.
However, the situation may change drastically if FIH refuses to play ball and throws a spanner in the works. The FIH has been apprised of the controversy over the affiliation process, in which important states like Punjab, Mumbai, Karnataka and Bengal have been left out.
HI officials, who were closeted in discussions throughout Thursday afternoon, will present a status report to the two-man FIH delegation led by its vice-president Antonio von Ondarza on Friday.
They are expected to tell the FIH officials that they gave affiliation only to those states that applied within the deadline and if FIH wants it to accommodate everyone, then elections will have to be postponed, as there is not enough time to complete both the processes. They will also apprise FIH of the scenario.
The shrewd manner in which HI and Indian Olympic Association officials have played their cards may leave the FIH in a catch-22 situation. It will either have to take a drastic step and threaten relocation of the 2010 World Cup this late when a big sponsor has already been put in place, or agree to a postponement of elections till after the World Cup next year in February-March. With the govt too in favour, the FIH may not have enough space to manoeuvre.