Charges don't amount to guilt until they are proven. But they also don't go away until reasonably explained. Till now, Commonwealth Games Organising Committee (OC) Chairman Suresh Kalmadi has done a terrible job of answering the charges of corruption and malpractices among various officials of his team. In an interview to this paper yesterday, Mr Kalmadi, unsurprisingly, spoke about his innocence. At best, what his basic defence was amounted to ignorance, at worst, a passing the baton mentality.
Mr Kalmadi's anger at what he may deem as 'media overkill' may be valid. But the interest of the media and its consumers, the public, about what he has to say about allegations of OC officials is valid — especially considering the responses and the quality of defence Mr Kalmadi has given till date. Stating that the OC has nothing to do with tenders, for instance, does little to comfort anyone, as does the reported damage control exercise he will be undertaking to remove 'tainted' officials from the OC. His explanation of the OC framing out a tenderless 'contract' — the qualifier on the term as there was, in Mr Kalmadi's own words that there was no written contract — during the Queen's baton relay function in London last year because of the paucity of time enhances, instead of reduces, suspicions.
Going by the state of play now, with less than two months to go for the Games and the incompleteness of many projects, time is even shorter than ever before. Will that mean cutting of more corners, doling out of more 'tenderless' verbal contracts to get the job done? There may be rotten eggs down the line within the OC who have conducted their affairs without Mr Kalmadi knowing. But it would be disingenuous on the part of the chairman to plead innocence for his ignorance. It would also be wrong for Mr Kalmadi to accuse the media of a witch-hunt. Considering the alleged facts tumbling out every day, anything short of a hue and cry would be a cover-up. It is the same concern that the prime minister is reportedly showing with reports of the likelihood of him summoning the sports minister soon and subsequently seeking a status report from the cabinet secretary on the progress of various Games-related works. Mr Kalmadi has stated that he is willing to face a Comptroller and Auditor General's or judicial probe. That will be helpful. Especially in an atmosphere in which the country's reputation, not to mention its ability to pull off an international sporting event where the non-sporting events make bigger news, is at stake.