December began on an embarrassing note for India as two of its sports entities lost the international affiliation while an infrastructure major in the country lost a contract of over $511 million in a neighboring archipelago -- and all these could have been avoided had the government responded in time or more responsibly.
The Indian government received its first blow when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) suspended the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) Tuesday for not holding the elections in accordance with the IOC norms. However, the IOA went ahead with its decision to hold the Dec.5 elections based on the Indian government's sports code, inviting the wrath of the IOC.
The IOC announced Friday that it would not recognize the elections conducted by the suspended Indian Olympic Association, stating the "so-called" office-bearers lacked legitimacy, the Press Trust of India (PTI) reported.
The dispute between the international sporting bodies and their Indian affiliates stems from the loopholes in the Indian sporting bodies that allow the allegedly corrupt and tainted politicians to head the sports bodies.
A majority of the Indian sporting bodies have more politicians or their nominees than experts at the helms. This tendency has been nurtured and encouraged by successive governments and politicians who have made their own interpretations of the sporting bodies’ rules to protect their vested interests.
A recap of events following the Indian Olympic Association suspension shows how the Indian sporting body flouted the international norms and earned the wrath of the International Olympic Committee.
Abhay Singh Chautala was elected unopposed as president and Lalit Bhanot as secretary-general in Wednesday’s elections, which saw a rival faction abstaining from the process. But one of the newly-elected office-bearers is tainted with corruption charges, justifying the IOA’s allegations of election manipulations.
Bhanot had been arrested and held in custody for eleven months on corruption charges in an ongoing case relating to the 2010 Commonwealth Games. Choutala is alleged to have close ties with Suresh Kalmadi, who is also tainted with corruption allegations and faces legal charges.
"The election process has been tarnished since the beginning. Many different interferences, many governmental rules and their own bad interpretation of IOA statutes," Pere Miro, director of IOC relations with National Olympic Committees said, according to the PTI.
In a strongly-worded letter to the IOA, the IOC warned of legal consequences and barred it from representing the international body till it comes clear of government interference.
“We have to regain our confidence that the IOA is acting independent of the government and that the government isn't interfering. At the moment, the IOC is not satisfied that this is the case," said IOC director general Christophe De Kepper, according to the BBC.
"...they (newly elected office bearers) are not entitled to access the suspended Indian Olympic Association's bank accounts and the funds of the Olympic Movement. The IOC reserves the right to take any legal action against any misuse of the remaining Olympic Movement funds, which may still be available on the account of the suspended Indian Olympic Association," Kepper added, the PTI has stated.
In a related development, the International Amateur Boxing Association (AIBA) provisionally suspended the Indian Federation Thursday over possible manipulation of the recent elections.
"This provisional suspension is also due to the fact that the AIBA had learned about possible manipulation of the recent Indian Amateur Boxing Federation’s (IABF) election,” the AIBA said in a statement.
Interestingly, prior to the elections, the IABF was led by Choutala, who is now elected as the president of the suspended Indian Olympic Association. The new IABF president, Abhishek Matoria, is Choutala’s brother-in-law and a BJP MLA from Rajasthan.
"AIBA will now investigate this election and especially a potential political link between Indian Olympic Association President, as former Chairman of the IABF, and the IABF elections," the AIBA added.
The Sports Ministry, which had been sitting idle till the suspensions came one after the other, seems to have woken up now as it handed over suspension orders to the IABF, and ordered fresh elections.
However, the damage is done with political bias and government interference in the country’s leading sporting bodies coming out in the open, harming the interests of the nation and demoralizing athletes.
"I am really disappointed with this suspension. This is bad news for Indian sportsmen. I want to continue representing India in future but this news will affect morale of Indian boxers," Vijender Singh, who won a bronze medal in Beijing Olympics, told the NDTV.
The suspension disqualifies athletes representing India from participating at the international Olympics meets and boxing events.
How GMR Lost $511 Million Contract
The third embarrassment for the Indian government came from Maldives when the latter decided to cancel a $511 million contract awarded to the Indian infrastructure developer GMR to run the GMR Male International Airport (GMIAL).
Justifying the decision, Maldives said the agreement signed during the tenure of their former government with GMR, to upgrade the airport, ceased to serve their interests. The South Asian island nation cancelled the 25 year contract. It won a favorable approval from a Singapore court Thursday, triggering a diplomatic row with India.
The Male government announced that it would take over the operations of the GMIAL from midnight Dec.7. India has warned of dire consequences, including stopping the aid and slowing down the development works in the country if the island nation refused to follow the legal course in cancelling the contract.
However, the Maldivian government and experts believe the contract could have been salvaged had the Indian government acted over the request of Maldives to interfere in the issue. According to a statement by the Maldives authorities, the island government had made efforts to contact the Indian prime minister to explain its stand and waited for 45-days before cancelling the agreement.
But the Indian bureaucracy and foreign ministry had apparently failed to react, forcing the island nation to go ahead with its plans, Maldives claimed.