NEW DELHI: Faced with a barrage of criticism, scam-tainted Suresh Kalmadi on Wednesday declined the position of the Indian Olympic Association’s life president even as the sports ministry issued a showcause notice to the IOA for its controversial decision.
“I thank the Indian Olympic Association for conferring the honour of Life President on me. However, I do not feel that it would be appropriate for me to accept this honour at this time,” Kalmadi said in a letter addressed to IOA president N Ramachandran.
“I am confident that my name will be cleared and I will defer acceptance of the honour till such time,” he added.
Kalmadi alongwith another tainted former president Abhay Singh Chautala were elevated to life presidents by the IOA at its Annual General Meeting in Chennai on Tuesday.
The move triggered a storm with the ministry issuing a showcause notice to the IOA and also threatening to severe ties with the body if it failed to sack the duo, of which Kalmadi decided to step back.
“This move is against the constitution of IOA and is not acceptable to the Sports Ministry. I am disappointed by the decision because both are facing cases of corruption. We want transparency in sports. Till the time, these two don’t resign or are sacked, we will not deal with the IOA,” sports minister Vijay Goel told reporters.
Earlier, while the IOA top brass went incommunicado for some time before associate vice-president Narinder Batra, who is now the president of International Hockey Federation, criticised the move and called for the duo to step aside.
“I might be quitting the IOA soon because I can’t be associated with something which does not make sense to me in terms of good governance. They should not accept this position till the time their names are cleared,” Batra said, breaking ranks with the officials, who voted unanimously for these appointments in Chennai.
However, Chautala came out to defend himself by launching an attack on Goel. But that did little to douse the fire and Goel was joined by Ajay Maken, the sports minister in the previous government, in criticising the move and calling it “sad and painful”.
“As a former sports minister and sports enthusiast, the IOA’s decision to appoint Kalmadi and Chautala as life presidents of IOA is sad and very painful. This decision is not good for sports and India’s image,” Maken told reporters.
“I request the sports minister not only to convey his reservations but take strong actions to reverse the decision. All the National Sports Federations are funded by the sports ministry, so the government should exercise its full powers to reverse the decision. If they do so there is no reason the matter can’t be resolved,” he added.
Chautala, on the other hand, wondered what the fuss was all about, going to the extent of ridiculing Goel for expressing pain on his appointment.
“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 sports minister. I would advise him to fulfill 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,” he added.
Chautala also said that he had done enough for Olympic sports in India to deserve the IOA life president’s post.
Maken, meanwhile, also questioned BJP MP Anurag Thakur, BJP-ally Shiromoni Akali Dal MP Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa and IOA sitting vice-president Tarlochan Singh for not opposing the appointments being a part of the AGM.
Kalmadi served as the IOA president from 1996 to 2011 and was jailed for 10 months for his involvement in the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games corruption scandal but was later released on bail.
Chautala, on the other hand, served as the president of the IOA from December 2012 to February 2014 when the sports body was suspended by the parent IOC for fielding charge-sheeted candidates at the elections. His election as IOA chief was annulled by the IOC.
Also speaking on the issue was Justice (retd) Mukul Mudgal, who headed a Supreme Court-appointed committee to inquire corruption in the 2013 Indian Premier League. Mudgal felt the IOA has erred.
“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 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 opined.
“It is for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to take a view on this but I hope IOA is not banned because that would be bad for Indian sports,” he added.