Even as the BCCI keeps digging in its heels at the Supreme Court to stave off reforms in Indian cricket, the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) bosses have once again shown how little they care for propriety and public accountability. On Tuesday, the IOA at its annual general meeting in Cheni, saw it fit to make life presidents of tainted administrators Suresh Kalmadi and Abhay Singh Chautala. Presently out on bail, former IOA president Kalmadi was behind bars for 10 months for his involvement in the Rs 30,000 crore Commonwealth Games scam. The CBI chargesheet had detailed how contracts had been awarded at grossly inflated rates, payments made to bogus parties and funds misappropriated in that 2010 sporting extravaganza. As for Chautala, he has been facing trial since December 2009 in a disproportiote assets case. The case is still dragging on, and as recently as August this year, the special court wondered how Chautala could jet off to attend the Rio Olympics without seeking its permission. Many people in this counrty, particularly sportsmen, can recall the suspension of the IOA by its parent body Intertiol Olympic Committee (IOC) when Chautala was heading IOA from December 2012 to February 2014. The controversy had erupted after IOA followed its constitution and the Government of India’s Sports Code (as directed by Delhi High Court) to elect office-bearers. After Lalit Bhanot, who too had been jailed on corruption charges related to the Delhi Commonwealth Games, was elected IOA secretary-general — the IOC cried foul, demanded that the Olympic charter be followed, and suspended IOA. There was then the very real possibility that India would be expelled from the Olympics; there was much anxiety whether Indian athletes could compete under the tricolor or as independent athletes under the IOC flag. After IOA and government officials negotiated with the IOC for over a year, a deal was worked out. IOA amended its constitution to bar any officials charged with crime from running for election, thereby shutting out Abhay Chautala and Lalit Bhanot; and thereafter, IOC revoked IOA’s suspension. The IOA is being incorrigible now when it makes Kalmadi and Chautala life presidents.
The Sports Ministry on Wednesday issued a showcause notice to the IOA; incensed Sports Minister Vijay Goel has called the IOA’s decision ‘ucceptable’, refusing to deal with it till the Kalmadi-Chautala duo either resign or are sacked. Reportedly, Kalmadi has now developed cold feet, declining to accept IOA’s life presidentship. But INLD leader Chautala, dyed-in-the-wool politician that he is, has heaped ridicule on the Sports minister, advising Goel to ‘focus’ on his job so that the country’s medal count increases manifold. This is typical of hidebound sports administrators turning around to blame the government, after hijacking their sports federations for decades and playing ducks and drakes with the careers of sportsmen. However, former Sports minister and Congress leader Ajay Maken has eschewed rrow politics to stand by Goel’s side. Pointing out that all tiol sports federations are funded by the Sports Ministry, Maken has called upon the government to exercise its full powers to make IOA reverse its decision, support all PILs against IOA in court, as well as approach the IOC’s Ethics Committee. What is more, Maken has questioned why BJP MP and BCCI chief Anurag Thakur and Shiromoni Akali Dal MP Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, being part of IOA’s Executive Committee, did not oppose the elevation of Kalmadi and Chautala. But then, when it comes to lording it over sports bodies in this country, politicians of all feathers roost together. Ajay Maken found this to his chagrin in 2011 when he put up the draft of tiol Sports Development Bill to the Manmohan Singh cabinet for approval. Some of his cabinet colleagues like Kapil Sibal, Farooq Abdullah and Sharad Pawar opposed the proposals to clean up sports bodies, make them accountable and fix age limits for administrators — as being ‘too intrusive’! Things have changed little since then, with the Supreme Court recently warning BCCI chief Thakur that he could be jailed for misleading the court on reforms. Taking serious issue with BCCI’s dogged obfuscation and obstruction tactics, Chief Justice TS Thakur caustically observed that everyone wants to ‘go on forever’ in sports administrator posts because it is such a ‘lucrative business’. It is high time the Central government yields a large broom to make sports bodies ‘swachh’; without a clean system, it is useless to hanker for glory (and medals) in the sporting are.