CHENNAI: The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) elections are heading towards the home stretch. A day before the deadline for filing the nomination papers, Olympian and multiple Asian Games medallist PT Usha decided to enter the contest for the president's post. Backed by the Sportspersons of Outstanding Merit (SOMs) and the Athletes' Commission and a few other National Sports Federations (NSFs), she confirmed her candidature.
After days of silence, speculation and a spate of meetings, consensus was reached on Saturday. As of now, it is understood that she has the backing of the Athletes' Commission and the SOMs who apparently met in New Delhi on Saturday. If insiders are to be believed, she was backed by the athletes and a few other NSFs as well. The numbers can change before the filing of nomination papers closes at 5 pm on Sunday. As of now, she is the lone candidate (until late on Saturday) and seems to be on a very strong wicket. All nominations will be filed on Monday.
"With the warm support of my Fellow Athletes and National Federations I am humbled and honoured to accept and file for the Nomination of the President Of IOA," tweeted the 58-year-old from Kerala.Usha was inducted into the Rajya Sabha by the ruling BJP party in July. Though she was a last-minute choice, it is understood that since the ruling dispensation prefers a sportsperson to head an organisation, she was seen as an ideal candidate.
It also reminds us of the All India Football Federation elections when Kalyan Chaubey decided to contest for the president's post as a former international footballer, who also happens to be a BJP leader. Usha, who finished fourth at the Los Angeles Olympics by a fraction of a second, has been brought in as an SOM in the electoral college. At the moment, there are 10 sportspersons in the electoral college of the IOA and at least seven NSFs with BJP leaders as president. Each NSF has two votes. In other words, Usha is assured of 24 of 77 votes as of now. In all, there are 33 NFSs.
According to the amended IOA constitution, the Executive Council will have an equal number of women representatives, too. The bargaining has already begun for various posts. There is one senior vice president's post and two vice presidents (one male and one female). There are two joint secretary posts (one male and one female) and a treasurer. The Executive Council will be of six members (three male and three female) and out of that, two will be from SOMs and two athlete representatives. Also, since the constitution doesn't allow any member who has completed two terms of four years as office bearer to contest, most members are expected to be new. It needs to be seen how the old IOA members react.
Until now, there were speculations that Badminton Association of India president Himanta Biswa Sarma (Assam chief minister), Athletics Federation of India president Adille Sumariwalla and even Boxing Federation of India president Ajay Singh could be candidates for the IOA top post. Though the BAI president is not filing his nomination for the top post, it needs to be seen if Sumariwalla enters the contest. There is a possibility that he might be given some other strong position in the panel. But whether he would contest the election depends on how much the sports ministry or the government would want to control the election.