A late arrival and an invalid vote appeared to have sealed the scam-tainted Suresh Kalmadi's fate in the Asian Athletics Association elections here on Monday.
Going by the Kalmadi camp, the representative of Iraq's national athletics association reached the venue late, or just in the nick of time, as claimed by the supporters of his rival. The vote of a known supporter from Maldives was one of those declared invalid as Kalmadi and his rival Qatar's Dahlan Jumaan Al-Hamad were locked in a fierce battle for the president's post.
Six more votes in the 45-member AAA congress were declared invalid, and Kalmadi lost 18-20 to the Qatari brigadier general.
Had the the Iraqi representative not been allowed to vote and the Maldives official had voted correctly, the voting would have ended tied at 18-18 and Kalmadi's casting vote would have clinched the issue in his favour.
Even otherwise, the Kalmadi camp claimed, had the invalid votes gone his favour — barring UAE, all others were their supporters, and he would have coasted through.
In the end, Kalmadi was left counting ifs and buts as his Qatari rival celebrated his victory by declaring that he would launch a programme for the overall development of the sport in the region via better marketing of the sport.
Kalmadi, the incumbent president, was seeking re-election and was initially considered to have enough votes to secure a fourth term.
The Lok Sabha MP from Pune, who spent months in custody for his alleged role in Commonwealth Games scam, has lost all other posts and was battling for survival as a sports administrator. His camp was quietly confident of success and continuously touted his 'work' as AAA president as the deciding factor in his favour.
"The time he spent in custody seems to have played its role," said a Kalmadi supporter. "Al-Hamad seems to have stolen a march during this period."
Kalmadi left the venue immediately and the only reaction people could get from him was that the defeat has given him a chance to work at the grassroots and make a comeback.
"I have no issues with my defeat. Actually, I am relieved that I will be able to work at grassroots," said Kalmadi.
However, there is a feeling that this is the end of Kalmadi as a sports administrator. "It will be very difficult to recover lost ground," admitted a Kalmadi supporter.
He will continue to be a member of the AAA council till 2015 and as honorary president thereafter. But that will be small consolation for one who ruled top sports bodies in India and at the continental level.