Suresh Kalmadi’s return to Indian Olympic Association triggers political slugfest
At a time when the nation should be celebrating the sportspersons who won laurels for India in 2016, political heavyweights are involved in a slugfest over the appointment of Suresh Kalmadi and Abhay Singh Chautala as honorary life presidents of the Indian Olympic Association.
Both the Congress and BJP, are unhappy with Suresh Kalmadi and Chautala’s return to the apex sports body in the country and are digging up their tainted past to announce their displeasure in public.
Congress’ Ajay Maken, who has been a sports minister and someone who was known for his clean image, has hit out at the Indian Olympic Association for bringing back Suresh Kalmadi and Abhay Singh Chautala.
Current sports minister Vijay Goel (BJP) was the first to announce his displeasure at the high-profile appointments that clearly highlighted the ‘cosy’ culture that existed among power-hungry sports administrators in the country.
Goel said Kalmadi and Chautala’s return it was “totally unacceptable” as both of them were 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 told reporters at a hurriedly-called press conference at his residence.
“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 said, hours after the IOA took the decision to make Kalmadi and Chautala as life presidents in Chennai.
Chautala hits back at Goel
“I was surprised by the reaction of sports minister Vijay Goel. He was claiming that there are criminal and corruption cases against me. The case against me is not a criminal case, it is a political case,” a livid Chautala said.
“Mr Goel has failed in his responsibility as a sorts minister. I would advise him to fulfil his responsibility as Sports Minister because if he does that, our medal count will increase manifold and he will get credit for that. Instead of getting into a controversy without knowing full facts, he should focus on his job,” Chautala added.
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 but later released on bail.
Chautala served as the president of Indian Olympic Association from December 2012 to February 2014 when the IOA was suspended by the parent International Olympic Committee for fielding charge-sheeted candidates at the elections. His election as IOA chief was annulled by the IOC.
Only after the Indian Olympic Association Constitution was amended to ensure that charge-framed candidates are not allowed to contest elections, the IOC revoked the suspension on IOA in February 2014.
Government wants IOA to explain
Goel said that the ministry has sought details from the IOA and will take appropriate action after getting a report from the IOA top brass.
“We have sought details (from the IOA) and on receipt of a complete report, we shall review the situation and take appropriate action. Our government is committed to good governance and transparency in sports,” Goel said.
“Sports is for public good and sports governance is a public function. Therefore, it is governed by public law,” he added.
“Nothing is bigger than the government. The government will see how and when there will be interference, so that these people against whom criminal and corruption cases are pending are not associated with sports. We will take steps which are necessary.”
‘Unanimous decision to appoint Kalmadi’
IOA vice-president Tarlochan Singh said that the IOA does not need approval from anybody to name any person as its Life President and today’s decision was taken “unanimously” by the General House.
“IOA General Body does not need any clearance from anybody to appoint any person a life president or patron. It was within the rights of the IOA. Moreover, all the past presidents have been made Life Presidents or Patrons,” Tarlochan said.
“It was a unanimous decision of the General House of the IOA. A life president is an honorary post. It has no office, no power and does not involved in the day-to-day functioning of the IOA. I don’t see any problem in this decision,” he said.
(With PTI inputs)