With the Commonwealth Games merely 152 days away, there is a tussle for power between the National Sports Federations (NSFs) and the Union Sports Ministry. After a notification issued by the ministry on Sunday fixed the tenures of sports' top honchos, Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president Suresh Kalmadi hit back, calling the regulation “an assault on the autonomy of the federations.”
Terming it “a draconian move”, a defiant Kalmadi said, “We're surprised at the ministry's attitude. We will take appropriate steps to preserve our autonomy.”
Kalmadi said that he had summoned the IOA Executive Committee on May 18 and might also convene a General Assembly to decide the course of action. Indicating that the regulation could not meddle with the affairs of the sporting bodies, Kalmadi said the IOA constitution was sent to the International Olympic Council (IOC). “All the NSFs also send their constitutions to their respective international bodies, so no one can interfere there either,” he said.
The IOA chief said he was caught unawares by the ministry's action at a time when the Coordination Committee (CoCom) of the Games was in the Capital. “We were hoping to make it their final visit and leave a good impression. The CoCom was surprised at the turn of events,” he said. KP Singh Deo, president of the Rowing Federation, also criticised the timing.
The IOA secretary-general, Randhir Singh, said the regulation had been forwarded to the IOC and the Olympic Council of Asia. “We are expecting a positive reply soon,” he said. The ministry had earlier announced a new regulation that limited the tenure of the federation presidents to 12 years, with or without break. Secretaries and treasurers can serve two terms of four years at a stretch and would have to take a four-year gap before standing for re-election. This miffed the chiefs of the NSFs, most of whom are also politicians and MPs.
The Archery Association of India president, VK Malhotra, All India Tennis Association chief Anil Khanna, Badminton Association chief VK Verma and others were also present. In a show of unity after their authority was challenged, all of them hit out at the regulation, using their own terms to label it undemocratic.
Jagdish Tytler, the Judo Federation chief, called it “completely unconstitutional” and said the ministry had done a disservice to sports in the country. Bhubaneshwar Kalita, Chef de Mission of the Indian contingent for the Games, called it “an infringement on the autonomy of the NSFs.”
Hitting out at claims that the new order would usher in transparency in the functioning of the IOA and NSFs, Kalmadi said, “The Sports Minister himself has given a letter to the court that all the federations have submitted their accounts to the Comptroller and Auditor General.” Taking pot shots at the Sports Minister, Verma said, “Those at the helm of affairs are themselves above 70 years,” much to the amusement of the other members.