The controversial appointment of Suresh Kalmadi and Abhay Singh Chautala as life presidents by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) in its Annual General Meeting in Chennai on Tuesday seems to have ignited a political war.
Former Sports Minister Ajay Maken, a Congress politician, has urged the current Sports Minister Vijay Goel, who is from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), to take strong action against these appointments.
“There should be pressure on IOA. All the members are related to political parties and I would like to urge them to take back the decision,” the former sports minister said at a press conference on Wednesday.
“I cannot believe that ‘chargesheeted’ people are made presidents of the IOA. I feel happy that Sports Minister (Vijay Goel) has issued a strong statement on it; he must act now to reverse the decision.
“If one cares about sports in the country, then one has to rise above the political lines and the people who are ‘chargesheeted’ in the court should not be made lifetime members of the IOA. By making Chautalaji and Kalmadiji the lifetime members of the IOA, we are sounding the death knell for sports in the country. Till the time they are not exonerated by the court, they have no right to be members of the IOA,” he added.
Ironically, Suresh Kalmadi was a member of the Congress party until recently.
Sports Minister expresses displeasure
Sports Minister Goel himself had expressed his displeasure over the duos appointment, both of whom are facing serious criminal and corruption charges.
“We are shocked at the resolution passed by the IOA to make Suresh Kalmadi and Abhay Singh Chautala as life presidents of IOA. This is totally unacceptable to us as both of them are facing serious corruption and criminal charges,” Goel had said on Tuesday.
“In fact, IOA was suspended by the IOC when Chautala and Lalit Bhanot were elected office bearers of the IOA and the suspension was lifted only when the two were removed from the management,” the minister pointed out.
Chautala slams Goel
Chautala, who belongs to the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), slammed Goel for his comments.
“Vijay Goelji ki apni koi aur pida hogi jiske wajah se unhone kal is kisam ke bayan diye. Sports ko badhane ke liye Vijay Goel sahab ko kaam karna chahiye,naki isko controvery mei daal kar ke bewajah vivad chedhna chahiye. (Vijay Goel must have had a separate issue that would have forced him into making comments on Tuesday. He should focus on promoting sport and not turn this into an unnecessary controversy),” Chautala told ANI.
Kalmadi served as IOA president from 1996 to 2011 and was jailed for 10 months for his involvement in the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games corruption scandal. He was later released on bail.
Chautala, meanwhile, was the president of IOA from 2012 to 2014 when the IOA was suspended by the parent International Olympic Committee (IOC) for fielding chargesheeted candidates at the elections. His election as IOA chief was even annulled by the IOC.
Avoidable, says Justice (retd) Mudgal
Justice (retd) Mukul Mudgal, who was chairman of the Supreme Court-appointed panel to inquire corruption in the 2013 Indian Premier League, was quoted by PTI as saying that, “Their (Kalmadi and Chautala) guilt is a matter of trial but I think it (elevation in IOA) was avoidable and they should not have done it. I am told this was not even on the agenda.
“In theory, sports bodies are independent but for all events, they need state funding. The government can stop funding but it will only hurt Indian sports. It’s a difficult situation,” he felt.
“It is for the IOC to take a view on this but I hope the IOA is not banned because that would be bad for Indian sports,” he added.