CHENNAI: Winds of change seem to be sweeping across the corridors of the Indian Olympics Association (IOA). At the Executive Council (EC) meeting in a city hotel on Thursday, decks were cleared to elect a new president. Incumbent N Ramachandran has been firefighting on many fronts but ‘gave in to the demand of the house’ as one EC official put it to the media.
That sounds dramatic, but some of the measures ratified by the IOA suggests that the EC official wasn’t joking. At an emergent EC meeting in New Delhi on November 7, a motion was passed to shift the venue of the annual general meeting from Chennai to the capital. It was ratified unanimously on Thursday. Even Ramachandran said ‘yes’. The election for president and other office-bearers will also be held on the same day. “They wanted a change of venue I told them I have no objection,” Ramachandran said. He was clearly against any unnecessary confrontation. “We had a meeting and all issues were resolved amicably,” secretary general Rajeev Mehta said.
Ramachandran can contest again
Ramachandran, who has been president of the IOA since 2014, can opt to stand again but two things go against him. Given he is 69, he will anyway have to step down the day he turns 70 thanks to the sports code. A fact that was confirmed by prominent sports lawyer Vidushpat Singhania, who was also part of the committee that drafted it. Second, even if he opts to stand, the numbers aren’t in his favour. “He wanted to be a one-man show in the IOA and that is a constant grouse with many people,” another associate member said. “He did not take the time to visit federations and it did not go down well.” Dwindling support might mean he decides not to stand.
If sources are to be believed, Ramachandran, however, has not made up his mind. Though he was nonchalant about some of the members’ view on his functioning, he said ‘every president has his own way’. “I am not alone. There have been quite a few presidents of the IOA and everyone had his own way of functioning. I have my own way and I think we should leave it at that,” he told Express. The motion to expel him was not discussed. There were voices raised with one or two arguments, but more or less the voice of the majority stood.
Support for Batra
This brings us to the question of the new nominee. More than a few members ‘want a strong man like (Narinder) Batra at the helm,’ according to another associate member. He does have the backing as ‘he is an able sports administrator’ but, as it currently stands, the constitution may pose a hindrance. Some members left it for the returning officer to decide. If interpretation doesn’t allow him to stand for election, then there are a couple of other candidates — treasurer Anil Khanna and Birendra Prasad Baishya of Weightlifting Federation of India are doing the rounds. Baishya’s name was considered even in 2014 but because he was not part of the EC he was not considered. While a few members expressed confidence in Batra becoming the new president. “There will be no change to the constitution,” said Mehta.
A couple of other things stood out during the day. The minutes were not trusted with the president. Senior sports administrators like EC members SM Bali, RK Anand, seen as a close associate of Lalit Bhanot, did not leave the premises until the minutes were drafted. Even senior vice-president Virendra Nanavati and Rakesh Gupta, chef-de-mission at the Rio Olympics, considered to be close to the president, too were there. Mehta and the president with these members were holed up in a room even after the meeting was over. The other highlight was the absence of a meet-the-press opportunity, something that indicates not everything is well within the body. Presence of Athletics Federation of India (AFI) officials indicated who had control over the meeting.
The Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the IOA, and the elections, have been shifted to New Delhi. It will be held on December 14. This was ratified unanimously.
Executive Committee (EC) decided to recommend de-recognition of the Indian Amateur Boxing Federation (IABF) to the IOA general body on Dec 14. This paves the way for Boxing Federation of India (BFI) to be accredited with the IOA. “This move gives us clarity and makes us stronger,” a BFI official said.
EC members and 13 Associate members attended meeting.
House approved requests for requisition meeting and since all items were covered in the agenda on Thursday and have been further included for discussion at the AGM, a request will be made to withdraw requisition letters.
Minutes of the November 7 meeting accepted, subject to amendments from Anil Khanna, Virendra Nanavati and RK Anand.
Grants to state Olympic bodies, NSFs to be D7 lakh per year.