Saturday, February 05, 2011

Candle in the Wind

“Better to light a candle than curse the darkness” , is a Chinese proverb
the newly appointed sports Minister Ajay Maken keeps in his mind to fight a
seasoned veteran in sports administration Suresh Kalmadi.

UPA season one and two has seen four sports ministers come and disappear into oblivion burning their fingers in their fight against mighty man Suresh Kalmadi. Season one of the UPA saw bollywood actor Sunil Dutt occupy the chair on the 4th floor in Shastri Bhavan followed by a short stint by Oscar Fernandes. Mani Shankar Aiyar was then demoted from Petroleum ministry to the Sports Ministry. The government brought on board MS Gill with just over 30 months to go for the CW Games in Delhi.

The IAS officer retained the post in the post election euphoria to complete
the work for the 2010 CWG games. The CWG scandal that followed forced the government to act tough and appoint Ajay Maken to clean the mess facing the Sports ministry.

The two previous predecessors Gill and Aiyar paid the price for not toeing the line Kalmadi wanted them to take. Oscar disappeared before he could take any stern steps in the sports ministry while Sunil Dutt passed away.

However the threat of the Commonwealth files forced Manmohan to get Mani Shankar Aiyar to the hot seat. Day one in office and the learned IFS officer along with his secretary Madhukar Gupta took on Suresh Kalmadi for a big fight. Suresh knew that it would be very difficult to get things cleared under Mani’s table. He delayed the Commonwealth Games projects on paper forcing the government to get the rap on its knuckles from the Commmonwealth Games Federation at regular intervals. Mani knew what he was doing was right but got into a confrontation mode with the wily Kalmadi.

The former diplomat wanted an apex committee to keep check on the Organising Committee. All hell broke loose when the war between the two was out in the open and Aiyar called Kalmadi a “bloody liar”. Things were moving nowhere as India lost the bid to host the 2014 Asian Games to Incheon. Kalmadi and his cronies were confident of getting the host status to India but the South Korean city beat New Delhi 32 to 13 in the poll.

Kalmadi voiced that Aiyar’s thoughts against the 2014 bid echoed from India proved costly but Aiyar was not off the mark when it comes to making his observations.

The Prime Minister was forced to change guard and bring in Manohar Singh Gill the former Election Commissioner to the hot seat. Gill was the right person to finish the job on hand and used his experience in the Nirvachan Sadan to good effect to get the venues across Delhi ready in break neck speed. The GOM constituted under the leadership of Jaipal Reddy made the games complicated. Gill tried to do too many things in one go. He like Aiyar knew the trouble of having Kalmadi at the helm of affairs and in his second innings in the post 2008 election decided to take on Kalmadi.

MS Gill kept Kalmadi out of the venues inauguration spree for all SAI stadiums in Delhi while Kalmadi clung on to Sheila Dixit to inaugurate the the stadiums under the Delhi Government The two met during the opening of the Indira Gandhi indoor stadium but the three time Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dixit kept things under control. However, Gill and Kalmadi did not waste time in taking potshots at each other on various platforms. Gill announced that CWG is like a "Fat Indian Wedding" where things would be ready at the final hour. Kalmadi rubbished the comments as trash but in hindsight that was the truth.

Gill's attempts to get the Indian Olympic Association house in order met a sea of opposition from Kalmadi and party as they knew that Gill was getting ready to hit them hard. The IAS officer had a round of meeting with International Olympic Committee on getting the house in IOA organised. The IOA fought tooth and nail in the garb of autonomy and managed to checkmate Gill. The IOA threatened that India could get suspended like Kuwait from the IOC and the Commonwealth Games could go out of the window or India.
The Dream to showcase India like China did with the Beijing Summer Games was turning sour. One after other things started falling apart with less that 45 days to go for the Shera Games. The preparations reached a crescendo when the Prime Minister was forced to intervene and set up a special committee to make the Games possible.

The games happened and the scams followed and MS Gill was the only one to be shunted out to make way for young gun Ajay Maken. The Delhi leader has overcome opposition at home. He is known for many landmark innovations like CNG in Delhi when he was a transport minister in the Dixit Government.

Maken in his short stint which is just over a fortnight has made his intentions clear that he has the patronage to get Kalmadi and party out of the game. He refuses to be drawn into controversy and his new sports bill is the step in the right direction as it uses the Olympic Charter to frame guidelines on how sports federations need to run in the country.

Maken's decision to make sports as a means of employment has been lauded by all from the north eastern states. He has brought the candle of hope in the valley of darkness. He has retained the right team of people who have fought Kalmadi before.

Kalmadi knows that he has met his match or does he have some ace up his sleeve will be seen in the next few days. Kalmadi is facing the heat with the CVC and the CBI closing in on his dubious deals in the CWG scam. He has refrained from making any comments on the new sports minister. Meanwhile, the removal of Kalmadi and Lalit Bhanot from the 2010 Orgainsing Committee is the only time Maken has made any mention of Kalmadi.

Kalmadi knows the journey ahead is full of thorns and his experience as a mass leader too does not hold much ground as Maken has beaten veterans like Jagmohan and Vijay Goel with handsome margins to the Parliament.

The new sports minister is beating Kalmadi at his own game but will the wily political from Pune bite the dust or will he bring some trick from the rule book to checkmate the sports ministry.

The Sports minister's mantra for now is, “Why give in to rudeness, when you can fight back with kindness.”


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