IOA officials lambast Maken for seeking Kalmadi’s removal


New Delhi : Influential chiefs of the national sports federations went into a huddle Monday to chalk out their future course of action following the arrest of Suresh Kalmadi, the sacked chief of the 2010 CWG organising committee, and some of them were highly critical of Union Sports Minister Ajay Maken asking for his removal as the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president.

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The moment it became imminent that Kalmadi was being chargesheeted for awarding the Timing, Scoring and Results (TSR) contract to a Swiss firm, some senior IOA officials, including secretary general Randhir Singh, switched off their cell phones, but those who took calls were clear that they would not like to dump Kalmadi on a mere chargesheet as Maken wants.

The officials felt Maken was interfering in the internal affairs of the apex body of Indian sports by giving his “unsolicited advice”.

Seniormost IOA vice president Vijay Kumar Malhotra, who is likely to step in if Kalmadi’s incarceration is prolonged, said some members got in touch with him and they would firm up their stand in a day or two.

“The situation is complex with politics overtaking sport. The situation is fluid and the IOA members will have to coolly and dispassionately discuss the matter, keeping the interests of Indian sport in view,” Malhotra told IANS.

Under the IOA constitution, Kalmadi cannot be removed unless he himself decides to go or a no-confidence motion is caried by a two-thirds majority. Both are unlikely to happen till the case against him is disposed of.

The IOA secretary general has called a meeting May 1 to discuss the latest war of letters between the IOA and sports ministry on the government guidelines.

Kalmadi, who has been charged with conspiracy and cheating and under the Prevention of Corruption Act, was arrested Monday afternoon after being grilled for the fourth time on CWG contracts being awarded to the most expensive firms, including the Timing, Scoring and Results (TSR) system to a Swiss firm.

Another senior IOA official and former MP Tarlochan Singh vehemently disagreed with the perception that a mere chargesheet “is good enough for someone to be removed, least of all by the government”.

“One look at the parliament, the union cabinet and state ministries will tell you that quite a few of them should have quit if the same yardstick is applied,” Singh said, adding that even a speaker of an assembly had got bail in a graft case and continues in office.

Tarlochan Singh said if the government is serious about finding the truth, then a fast-track court should be set up to hear the case on a day-to-day basis. “It is not a question of charging, but proving the criminal intent,” he said.

Expressing more or less similar views, Hockey India secretary general Narendra Batra went a step further to say that he stood by Kalmadi as he is innocent unless proved otherwise by a court of law.

“If a chargesheet is all that one needs to hang a person then half the union cabinet and a majority of ministers in the states, including a couple of chief ministers, will have to go. I disagree with the perception and I stand by Kalmadi,” said Batra.

“The law should be the same for everyone. I can list any number of high-profile politicians who are free and going about their work as ministers and MPs. You can’t have a different rule for Kalmadi. Why should he quit unless he is proved guilty,” asked Batra, who described himself as a newcomer to the IOA family.

Another official, the secretary general of a national sports federation who did not want to be named, questioned the sports minister, who said the IOA cannot have a chargesheeted person or one who is behind bars, as its president.

“The sports minister’s unsolicited advice was unfortunate, it amounts to government interference in IOA’s internal affairs.”

The official said barely a month ago the IOA general body had passed a unanimous resolution during the National Games in Ranchi praising Kalmadi and his team’s performance during the Commonwealth Games.

“In a full house, there was no dissenting voice at Ranchi and the resolution hailing his work was adopted unanimously,” the official said.