Lalit Bhanot, who spent 11 months in jail last year in connection with the Commonwealth Games corruption case, has been elected Secretary General of the Indian Olympic Association. Abhay Singh Chautala will be president of the association. Both were elected unopposed today. Â
Mr Bhanot's election could well queer the pitch for India, which is making frantic efforts to ensure that it is not banned by the International Olympic Committee. The IOC Ethics Commission's recommendations state that tainted officials like Mr Bhanot -Â who was a close aide of then-IOA president and CWG chief Suresh Kalmadi, who too was jailed in connection with the Commonwealth Games scam - cannot be part of the Olympic movement. (What will happen if India is de-recognised?)
The IOC had said on Wednesday that it will propose the suspension of the Indian association at its executive board meeting early next month if its elections were held under the Sports Ministry's code. The IOC said the election must be conducted according to the Olympic charter, in keeping with the spirit of the Olympics.
Top association officials, led by Mr Chautala today met Sports Minister Jitendra Singh in a bid to find a solution to the code dispute. IOA's acting President Vijay Kumar Malhotra also held a series of meeting with senior officials today.
Mr Singh said the code to be followed in the December 5 election was largely a dispute between the IOC and IOA and the government was just trying to play a helping hand.
"The government is just providing a helping hand to the IOA to resolve the matter. The whole mess is between the IOA and the IOC and Sports Ministry or the government is not a part of it", Singh said.
"The Sports Code is exactly the same as the IOC Charter. It is in the same terms as our code regarding age, term or the clean practices. So there is no problem there.
"It is an internal matter between the IOA and IOC, we are willing to help IOA and we are ready to sit with IOC to discuss any matter. If the IOC comes here, we will sit down and resolve the issue", the Minister said.
Mr Singh said the Government has written a letter to the IOC but no reply had come from the International sports body.
"The government has already written a letter to the IOC inviting them to come here and have a meeting. Sadly, we have not got any reply from them. Anyway, the IOA has all our support", Mr Singh said.
An IOA delegation of two, comprising Hockey India Secretary General Narendra Batra and lawyer RK Anand is being sent to Lausanne this weekend to explain India's point of view to IOC officials.
The IOA elections were scheduled for December 5, but with former Secretary General Randhir Singh having withdrawn from the race for president, Mr Chautala was elected unopposed. Apart from him and Mr Bhanot, Virendra Nanavati now becomes Senior Vice-President while N Ramachandran will be Treasurer.
Both Mr Chautala and Mr Bhanot have court cases pending against them. While Bhanot was charge-sheeted by the CBI under various provisions of IPC and the Prevention of Corruption Act for allegedly "illegally" awarding contract to install the TSR system for the 2010 CWG to Swiss Timing, Chautala has been charged by a court in an illegal assets case.