Everything is fair in love, war and elections.
At least that is the message coming out loud and clear from the developments preceding the 5 December Indian Olympic Association (IOA) polls.
The month-long battle between the group led by Boxing Federation of India chairman Abhey Singh Chautala and other by IOA Secretary General Randhir Singh has seen allegations and counter allegations hurled against each other. It has also attempted to get the government and even the International Olympic Council involved in the process.
The latest twist in the tale has come in the form of a (IOC) missive on Wednesday stating that a proposal for suspension of the IOA would be presented to the IOC Executive Board at its next meeting on December 4-5, 2012 if the elections are held according to the Indian Government’s Sports Code and not the IOC Charter and the IOA constitution.
The timing of the letter, signed by its Director-General Christophe de Kepper, has come as a surprise to many since the IOC had itself given the IOA time till November 30 to clear its stand on the election process. But even before the IOA could respond, the IOC has jumped the gun and issued another letter.
On the face of it, none of the provisions in the IOA Constitution or the IOC charter have been violated so far in the election process. One of the most contentious issues in the Sports Code has been the age limit for office bearers which bars anyone over 70 years of age from being an office bearer of a sports federation.
However, even that rule was not followed when the nomination papers of Randhir group’s candidate for the secretary general’s post K Murugan’s nomination was accepted. The Volleyball Association secretary's age is above 70 years.
The returning officer had clarified that the IOA nomination forms do not have a date of birth column and hence he had no way of determining whether Murugan was above the age limit or not. It is another matter that Murugan and even Randhir Singh have withdrawn their nominations and as things stand now, Chautala and his team is expected to win the election hands down.
But then why has the IOC jumped the gun — going ahead with the process to suspend IOA?
Before we go into the reasons behind the IOC move, let’s get some facts cleared.
The upcoming IOA elections are being held according to the Delhi High Court’s directive of 8 November asking the apex governing body in the country to conduct its polls according to the Sports Code.
The two groups have been at the centre stage of the entire poll process with the once-friends-now-turned-foes leaving no stone unturned in an effort to gain supremacy over the other.
The Chautala group was being considered to be the front runner to win the elections and that is when the IOC angle was introduced.
The first IOC communication was received on 16 November in which the governing body asked IOA acting president V K Malhotra to ensure that the elections are held according to the IOC Charter and the IOA constitution instead of the Sports Code.
The letter kick-started a frenzy of activities. Election Commission chairman S Y Qureshi resigned on the day of scrutiny of nomination papers— protesting against IOA’s attempts to not follow the Sports Code. The Randhir group immediately demanded indefinite postponement of the election by questioning Malhotra’s authority to appoint Qureshi’s replacement despite the acting president being given the power by the General Body to appoint the three-member election commission.
Since then, the IOC has already written two more letters to Malhotra asking him to clarify IOA stand on the Sports Code. The second letter on 23 November was signed by IOC president Jacques Rogge and Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) president Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah in which he had asked the IOC to clear their stand by 30 November.
It is worth noting that Randhir Singh is the IOC representative in India and also the secretary general of OCA and the Chautala group claims that he has been misguiding the IOC because he is in the minority.
As the secretary general of IOA, Randhir was very much part of the General Body that cleared the proposal for the election process. He had in fact written to the Sports Ministry to check whether he was eligible to contest for the President’s post in accordance with the Sports Code.
But he has since changed track. Now he is blaming Malhotra and Chautala group for the mess and has been advocating an indefinite postponement of elections. If the elections are postponed or if the IOA is suspended, Randhir Singh can stay in charge of the proceedings as IOC representative in the country.
"It seems they (Chautala group) are not concerned (about IOC's threat of a possible suspension). There is no hurry to hold the elections... The government is willing to sit with the IOA and IOC across the table to sort out the problem but are they interested? Not at all. Why are they in such a hurry to hold the elections?” he was quoted as saying by PTI on Wednesday.
A case of sour grapes, says the Chautala faction.
But it is clear from the recent happenings that the IOC’s role in this entire matter is not above board and that doesn’t augur well for a body of their stature.