The Indian Olympic Association’s (IOA) decision to appoint scam-tainted Suresh Kalmadi and Abhay Singh Chautala as honorary Life Presidents created a storm on Wednesday with the Sports Ministry threatening to sever ties with the IOA and Chautala threatening legal action.
Chautala and Kalmadi were elevated to Life Presidents by the IOA at its annual general meeting in Chennai on Tuesday.
Kalmidi, however, later declined to accept the position on Wednesday.
The move triggered a storm with the ministry threatening to issue a show cause notice to the IOA and also to break ties with the national Olympic body if it failed to retract on its decision on the two tainted administrators.
“The ministry will never accept such tainted people in the Indian Olympic Association and that is why we have expressed our reservations right after they were appointed last evening,” Sports minister Vijay Goel told reporters here. “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.”
“The ministry will issue a show cause notice to the IOA within a day or two as the government will in no way allow corrupt people in such posts,” Goel added. “We want transparency in sports. Till the time these two don’t resign or are sacked, we will not deal with the IOA.” “We want all the federations to be transparent and corruption free. By appointing Kalmadi and Chautala, what message is the IOA giving out?” Goel further said.
Goel reiterated his stance on Twitter: “Transparency and accountability is vital in sports; until Kalmadi and Chautala resign or are removed, we will not deal with IOA in any form.”
Kalmadi served as the IOA President from 1996 to 2011 and was jailed for 10 months for his involvement in the corruption scandal that cast a big shadow on the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games, but was later released on bail. Chautala is a former chief of Indian Amateur Boxing Federation (IABF) and his term at the helm of the IOA was full of controversy. He also faced corruption charges.
Chautala, however, hit back at Goel for opposing his appointment and threatened to drag the minister to court.
“I will take legal action against the Sports Minister. I will consult my friends in the IOA and will then take a call on what I need to do next,” Chautala was quoted as saying by India Today news channel.
Kalmadi was also not spared by his ex-party (Congress) colleague Ajay Maken with the former Sports Minister called the IOA’s move “sad and painful”.
Maken urged the Sports Minister and the Centre to put pressure on the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) to revoke its decision.
“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.
“Till they are not exonerated by court, they have no right to be IOA members.
“I cannot believe that chargesheeted people are made (Life) Presidents of the IOA. Feel happy that the Sports Minister issued a strong statement on the matter; he must act now to reverse the decision,” Maken told reporters earlier in the day.
“If one cares for sports in the country, one has to rise above political lines. People charge-sheeted in a court of law should not be made lifetime members of the IOA. By making Chautala and Kalmadi IOA lifetime members, we are sounding the death knell of Indian sports.
“Since the decision is not an executive one, the Sport Ministry should not have any difficulty in revoking it. In addition, it should approach the Ethics Committee of International Olympic Committee,” he added.
The Congress leader said the government should support public interest litigations that are likely to be filed following the IOA decision.
Maken urged the central government to pass the National Sports Development Bill in order to unseat bureaucrats and politicians from executive bodies of various sports organisations in the country.
Maken — who served as sports minister during the rule of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) at the centre — had proposed the National Sports Development Bill in 2011.
“In other countries, experts represent sports organisations. However, in India, bureaucrats and politicians occupy positions, which has messed up sports. The government should adopt the bill I brought in, in its original form. It will clear the mess,” Maken added.
IOA associate Vice-President Narinder Batra also said that he might quit the body in protest against the appointments.
“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,” Batra, who was recently elected as the president of the International Hockey Federation (FIH), said.
“They should not accept this position till the time their names are cleared,” Batra added.
Faced with criticism from all quarters, Kalmadi wrote a letter to IOA President N. Ramachandran that he has taken the decision to not accept any post until his name being cleared.
“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 the letter.