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India’s Olympic sports administration risks being plunged into another crisis going into the new year after the sports ministry threatened to take ‘appropriate action’ against the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) following the surprising appointments of Suresh Kalmadi and Abhay Singh Chautala as its life presidents.
The IOA unanimously appointed the two tainted administrators, who were kept out of the federation due to a slew of corruption charges against them, to the post during its Annual General Meeting in Chennai on Tuesday. A life president is an honorary post with no voting rights or involvement in day-to-day functioning of the body.
The association’s vice-president Tarlochan Singh said they do not need approval to name any person as its life president. “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 was qouted as saying by the PTI. However, according to the association’s website, Vijay Kumar Malhotra – who was an acting president following the Commonwealth Games scandal – was the only life president before Kalmadi and Chautala were appointed. The IOA has had 12 presidents in its 89-year history, including the current incumbent N Ramachandran.
The sports ministry was quick to rebuke the IOA and has asked for an explanation. “We are shocked at the resolution passed by the IOA to make Suresh kalmadi and Abhay Chautala Life Presidents of the IOA which is totally unacceptable to us as both of them are facing serious corruption and criminal charges,” sports minister Vijay Goel said in a statement. “We have sought details and on receipt of complete report we shall review the whole situation and take appropriate action.” The IOA, however, said Kalmadi and Chautala have been rewarded for their ‘service to the sport.’ Yet, their appointment as life presidents came as a surprise to many who attended Tuesday’s AGM. The issue was not a part of IOA agenda, which was circulated on November 24.
An office for the Olympic Council of Asia, hosting of Asian Beach Games and disputes in the basketball, boxing and gymnastics federations were on top of their agenda. “During the meeting, an office-bearer raised his hand and proposed that Kalmadi and Chautala should be made life presidents. The house agreed to it unanimously,” said the IOA official, who was a part of the meeting.
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. He was appointed as the life president of the Asian Athletics Association last year.
Kalmadi, now 72, has been suffering from health issues and has restricted his public appearances after being released from jail. Chautala, meanwhile, served as the IOA president from December 2012 to February 2014 when the body was suspended by the International Olympic Committee for fielding charge-sheeted candidates at the elections. His election as IOA chief was annulled by the IOC. “The IOA was suspended by IOC when Abhay Chautala and Lalit Bhanot were elected as office bearers of IOA and the suspension was lifted only when the two were removed from the management,” Goel said, adding that the ministry will take appropriate action in due course of time.
Goel, Kalmadi have a history
In December 2009, Vijay Goel was expelled from the Commonwealth Games organising committee by its chairman Suresh Kalmadi. Seven years on, the duo finds itself back in the centre of another controversy. This time, though, Goel – as the sports minister – has demanded that Kalmadi be removed as the life president of the Indian Olympic Association.
The duo shares a fractious past. Goel was the sports minister when India won the bid to host the Delhi CWG in 2003. He was a part of the India delegation along with Kalmadi that travelled to Jamaica and was subsequently included in the organising committee.
However, things got ugly thereon and Kalmadi axed Goel citing ‘indiscipline. “After a heated exchange at the CWG meeting, Mr Suresh Kalmadi announces expulsion of Mr Vijay Goel from the Organising Committee of Games 2010,” a media release from Goel’s office back in 2009 stated.
“Mr Goel was not allowed to raise the issue of delay in preparation and accountability by the Chairman Mr Kalmadi on the grounds that Mr. Goel has already voiced it all before media and has also demonstrated in public. When Mr. Goel insisted on speaking Mr Kalmadi announced that he has decided to expel Mr Goel from Organising Committee,” the release added.Goel called Kalmadi ‘?autocratic and arrogant’, saying he ‘could not take criticism in the right spirit.’