India's Olympic suspension could be lifted in the next couple of months, claimed Sports Minister Jitendra Singh, insisting that the process to end the exile has already been set in motion by the IOC.
"The IOC has decided to pave way to lift ban on IOA. Indian sportspersons will be able to join Olympic movement. A roadmap has been drawn up with consultation with the delegates of National Sports Federations, the government, the IOA and the IOC," Jitendra said while addressing a press conference just after arriving home from Switzerland following a meeting with the IOC officials.
"As per Constitution of the IOA, a 30-day prior notice is required to call an Extraordinary General Meeting. I think the whole matter could be wrapped up in 60 days," he added. Jitendra asserted that the controversial Sports Code was not diluted while drawing up the roadmap for India's return during his meeting with the IOC.
In a crucial meeting between Indian officials and the IOC in Lausanne yesterday, a roadmap was drawn up for India's return to the Olympic fold and Jitendra said the world body appreciated that the Code was more or less in conformity with the Olympic Charter.
"There was no relaxation on Sports Code. We discussed the Sports Code with the IOC which felt the Code was in conformity with the Olympic Charter except for the provisions relating to transparency and accountability in the functioning of sports bodies and Right to Information," he said.
"The government funds 40 to 70 per cent of the budget of the federations and it is taxpayers' money and we have to make sure that the money is spent well. The sports bodies will have to be accountable," he added.
He said that a new Sports Bill is being drafted and the government will consult the IOC while preparing the Bill.
"The government is in process of drafting a new Sports Bill and during discussions it has been agreed that we will work along with the IOC in the proposed Bill. The first draft will be out by June 30," he said.
Asked if the government would object to people like the tainted Lalit Bhanot contesting the elections, Jitendra said,
"We are not concerned with the internal functioning of federations. We have no business to decide who would be there or not.
"We discussed about adherence to ethical standards in the meeting in Lausanne but there were no specific names discussed in the meeting. But the IOC would be more concerned with these ethical matters and good governance," he said.
Jitendra hoped that acting IOA chief V K Malhotra and IOC member in India, Randhir Singh, would lend support to the endeavour even though they boycotted the meeting after the IOC agreed to include officials from the suspended IOA in the Indian delegation.
"I don't know why Randhir could not attend the meeting. There might be other reasons. But I know that he had called up the IOC leadership and supported us. We had discussed about amendment of the IOA constitution and the roadmap ahead.
As far as Malhotra is concerned, we hope he will support us and suggest the way forward. "It's a victory of the nation. The overriding thought was why the sporstpersons should suffer due to the internal squabble of the IOA and NSFs. We felt somewhere we have left behind the interest of the sportspersons. This was also the feeling among IOC officials in the meeting," he said.
The IOC had decided to ban India as the IOA had failed to comply with the Olympic Charter and also allowed a tainted official to contest elections for a top post. A day after the ban was imposed, the IOA went ahead with the elections under the government's Sports Code, defying the IOC's diktat to hold the polls under the Olympic Charter.
The IOC declared the elections "null and void", besides directing those elected not to discharge any official duties.
The world body, which communicated only with Malhotra and Randhir after the ban, also asked the National Sports Federations to distance from the Abhay Singh Chautala-led dispensation.