Kalmadi can't be touched till the Games are over

First, no one has attacked Organising Committee president Suresh Kalmadi inside the House, though most opposition leaders oblige the byte-hungry TV correspondents with juicy lines, exactly the way they are told to parrot.

Second, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the ruling Congress fielded young guns to initiate the debate. Then, curiously, none of the Delhi MPs spoke on the subject. Kalmadi, himself a Lok Sabha MP, was seen explaining to Lal Krishan Advani his case with a sheaf of documents to buttress his arguments.

If BJP's Kirti Azad used similes to lampoon the CWG officials, Congress spokesman Manish Tewari's cut-and-dry logic was simple and devastating. His line that money lost because of alleged corruption in Queen's Baton Relay was only a fraction of the total expense may not have impressed many, but he was clearly making the point that some vested interests were clutching at straws. 

Kalmadi's bete noire Mani Shankar Aiyar wanted Sports Minister Manohar Singh Gill to head a Special Committee to oversee the working of the Organising Committee (OC) like Buta Singh did during the 1982 Asian Games.
Gill rejected the idea stating that it is too late in the day to change horses midstream, not because the publicity-hungry former chief election commissioner would not like to preside over the Games or honestly believes that one more committees is not the answer. He knew the real answer and said so in his reply to the debate -- that the OC derives its power from the Indian Olympic Association and the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF), not from the government. Thus it is not all that easy to oust Kalmadi who is the points man for CGF in organising the Games.

All this doesn't mean the charges are baseless. The expenditure on some counts is preposterous, but that is expected when things are delayed deliberately so that you can have your hand in the till in the name of adhocism.

If the BJP's criticism of Kalmadi and the OC is muffled, it only shows how the sports bodies function in this country and how even the hardcore politicians close their ranks irrespective of their party affiliations when it comes to sport.

Screaming anchors and rampaging experts on television keep referring to how Buta Singh was brought in by the then government and how Rajiv Gandhi and his buddies set everything right in no time. If the 'babus' then could get the work done, this time, too, the government could have stepped in to get the infrastructure ready in time. After all, it was its agencies that have to deliver.

Just like the professional mourners today are crying hoarse about the wastage of money in beautifying Delhi, 28 years ago farmers' leader Charan Singh was furious with the spurt in construction of flyovers and road widening. As deputy prime minister he actually got the Games plan scuttled and it was left to a member of his ruling Janata Party, Vijay Kumar Malhotra to revive it, getting 200 MPs cutting across the party lines to sign on a petition to then prime minister Morarji Desai.

Malhotra was made the chairman of the Asian Games Organising Committee (AGOC), but before he could take charge of his new assignment, the Janata Party government was voted out. Indira Gandhi was back and she said she would clear the Games only under her dispensation and not Malhotra's. IOA had to sacrifice Malhotra and the AGOC accounts were frozen with some Rs.60 lakhs in the kitty. Technically, Gandhi could not usurp the powers of the AGOC and so an Asian Games Special Organising Committee (ASGOC) was set up to organise the Games. Malhotra went to Delhi High Court seeking to transfer the money with the AGOC to AGSOC account.
Charan Singh continued to question the wisdom of constructing so many flyovers when all that the Games needed was a couple of stadiums! Soon after the Games, the stadiums turned white elephants and the flyovers relieved the traffic congestion in the city!

All those who think that it was Indira Gandhi who got first V.C. Shukla and then Buta Singh as chairmen of the AGSOC do not seem to realise that both were the appointees of the Indian Olympic Association by virtue of being its members. Shukla was the president of the wrestling federation and Buta Singh headed the athletics federation. Certainly, they were not the nominees of the Congress party just as the party now insists that Kalmadi is there by virtue of being the IOA president and not as a party man. Raja Bhalendra Singh, father of CWGOC vice-chairman and IOA secretary-general Randhir Singh, was then the IOA president.

It is funny that both the AGOC and AGSOC on paper are still functional nearly three decades later. K.S. Bains, a retired bureaucrat and secretary general of AGSOC, still has an office only to fight one pending court case.

It should also be remembered that Malhotra is the president of the archery federation and his party colleague Yashwant Sinha is president of the All India Tennis Association (AITA). The president of the All India Football Federation is Praful Patel of the Nationalist Congress Party and the table tennis and boxing bodies are headed by the Chautala brothers, Ajay and Abhay. The late Pramod Mahajan's right-hand man and a well-known BJP stalwart, Harish Sharma, is the powerful secretary-general of the Basketball Federation of India. The list can go on and on. Has anyone heard any of these opposition leaders baying for Kalmadi's blood?

They will not hound Kalmadi because they know the reality and the constitutional position. Come to think of it, some of the most lucrative contracts have gone to BJP businessmen. The only BJP leader who is attacking the OC chief is former union minister Vijay Goel because he has been removed from the OC and he is instrumental in compiling a booklet of charges.

Malhotra is resisting the pressure from some of his colleagues to seek Kalmadi's resignation. Malhotra understands the politics of sport and realises that the conduct of the Oct 3-14 Games successfully is his prime concern, not dumping Kalmadi, though as the opposition leader in the state assembly he makes no bones about his dislike for the Delhi chief minister. 

The volatile electronic media that made OC joint director general T.S. Darbari a villain and saw to it that he was sacked for his alleged role in the questionable spending during the Queen's Baton Relay ceremony in London, is hailing him as a hero after he turned an "approver" of sorts by shifting the blame to Kalmadi to prove his innocence.

The immediate offshoot of the Darbari episode is that none of the OC officials are willing to take any responsibility of taking charge of the overlays equipment at various venues. As one official told OC top brass, he can't afford to buy blood pressure and ulcers by allowing sections of the prying and uninformed media to shatter his domestic peace by levelling all sorts of imaginary and factually unsubstantiated charges.

The OC found an immediate way out of the non-stop media vilification, particularly on certain TV channels, by requesting officials of Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) and Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) to function from the OC Headquarters and check each and every scrap of paper relating to the Games expenditure. One only hopes the two agencies are not the next victims.  

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