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Monday, June 7, 2010

Edition 22: Are Kalmadi’s Days Numbered?

City Blog Desk
The ongoing tussle between union sports ministry and Suresh Kalmadi, president of Indian Olympic Association means that Kalmadi’s days as the head of sports organization in India are numbered. After a stint over a decade, Kalmadi got marching orders by thr ministry last week. The sports ministry informed that politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen occupying top posts in various National Sports Federations (NSF) for more than a decade will have to step down after their current term expires.

Kalmadi is at the helm of affairs of IOA since 1996. He was re-elected twice, in 2004 and 2008. His present tenure is to end in Reelected un opposed 2012. Sports Minister M S Gill said the new regulation that seeks to limit the tenure of sports administrators has the backing of all political parties and is in fact a softer version of the original 1975 guideline.

Gill was rather taken aback by the reaction of the chiefs of various National Sports Federations (NSF), among whom Kalmadi is prominent, vehemently opposed the regulation, questioning its timing since it came barely five months before the Commonwealth Games in the capital. In an interview, the Sports Minister said he was requested by all political parties to limit the tenure of sports administrators.

"On April 22, there was a full debate on my ministry in the Rajya Sabha and all parties, barring none, urged me to have the regulation to limit terms (of the sports administrators), this being the demand of the sports people and the public for long," Gill said.

"I studied the issue with my officers and gave a considered order which should be read and re-read for total understanding," he said.

Gill said all he did was to bring back an old regulation and in fact relaxed the norm to allow NSF presidents to continue for 12 years, instead of eight suggested by the original 1975 guideline.

"I have only restored the regulation of the Indira Gandhi government. For the sake of the federation office-bearers, I have in fact softened the regulation and it's milder than the 1975 direction," he said.

The new regulation suggests NSF presidents, which includes long-standing Indian Olympic Association chief Suresh Kalmadi, cannot occupy the post for more than 12 years, with or without break, while secretaries and treasurers can serve eight years at a stretch and can seek a re-election only after a four-year gap.

"I guess the current protest is frankly because my friends (in NSFs) want unlimited tenures which don't exist even in IOC and most major sports federations in the world," Gill said.

On the other hand, the heads of sporting federations, including Kalmadi, met PM Manmohan Singh to protest the sports ministry limiting their tenures but came away with little assurance. The plea that the order was ill-timed, coming before the Commonwealth Games and in the midst of a security inspection, and that autonomy of sporting federations was affected elicited a non-committal response.

The PM is most unlikely to weigh in for the sports federations, given their record of opaque functioning and poor results in most disciplines. The argument that federations were elected bodies and office-bearers held office democratically has not cut much ice as the government feels it has the powers to set tenure limits.

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