A defiant Indian Olympic Association on Tuesday spurned the Sports Ministry's tenure limitation guidelines even though there was a voice of dissent against its president Suresh Kalmadi's "dictator-like" functioning.
The IOA's general body and the Executive Council, which met at Olympic Bhawan in Delhi, ruled out amending its constitution to accommodate the tenure limitation for its office-bearers as called for by the Sports Ministry.
"The Special General Body unanimously resolved that IOA and NSFs would decline to accept the government guidelines to protect their autonomy in accordance with IOC Charter and International Federations' Statutes," the IOA said in a statement.
"No steps will be initiated by IOA/any NSF to amend their Constitution to incorporate any provisions/ part of these Guidelines as this will be seriously in breach of the Olympic Charter and render the IOA/NSFs vulnerable to suspension and deprive their teams from International participation," it added.
The IOA's claim of "unanimous" rejection of the government regulation notwithstanding, Kalmadi had his moment of embarrassment when Cycling Federation of India (CFI) president S S Dhindsa rose to address the gathering.
"I hope the (IOA) President would not mind. I have been around for long and, at times, the President functions like a dictator," he said.
Dhindsa, named chairman of the Olympic Village Committee, was particularly unhappy with his nominations for committee members being ignored.
"Besides, I'm the chief of the Olympic Village Committee and I have no clue that someone already has been appointed the Mayor of the Games Village," said a sulking Dhindsa.
He also doubted how long the organisers would be able to withstand the government pressure.
"Here we have some Congress leaders and I'm not sure how long they can withstand the pressure from the government," he added.
Dhindsa's outburst against Kalmadi notwithstanding, the IOA completely ignored Sports Ministry's advise to discuss the tenure limitation issue in today's meeting.
The Ministry wants to fix the IOA and NSF President's tenure at 12 years with or without the break. The secretary generals and the treasurers' tenure is fixed at eight years at a stretch by the ministry regulations, which also advocates a retirement age of 70.
If implemented, the regulation would end the reign of Kalmadi and NSF chiefs including VK Malhotra (archery), Jagdish Tytler (judo) and Dhindsa, along others.
IOA, however, enjoys the backing of both the International Olympic Committee and the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) while the Sports Ministry has offered to send an official to IOC headquarters in Switzerland to sort out the issue.
In his speech, Kalmadi said that the guidelines are an assault on the IOA and NSFs' autonomy.
"It is time to correct some impressions that the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports has created," Kalmadi said.
"First and foremost, the Olympic Charter states clearly that only the National Olympic Committee has the right to decide the terms of office for the office-bearers and executive members," he said.
He also sought to dismiss the notion that IOA and NSFs were wasting public money, alleging the Sports Ministry created this impression by showing as grants to NSFs the money spent on training the athletes.
Lashing out at Sports Ministry's letter to IOC in which they sought a meeting, Kalmadi said, "A Joint Secretary writing about it to the IOC President, we cannot have this kind of arrogance."
IOA secretary general Randhir Singh, who is an IOC member and the Olympic Council of Asia's Secretary-General, said if the Ministry continued to insist on imposing the guidelines on IOA and NSFs, India could be left out of the Olympic Movement.
Parliamentarian Tarlochan Singh rejected Ministry's claims that the Parliament had backed the decision to impose the guidelines.
"During a discussion in the Rajya Sabha on the working of the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports on April 22, 2010, just two of the 21 members made any mention of tenures of office-bearers of National Sports Federations. To say that Parliament was seized of the issue is to paint a false picture," he said.
IOA senior vice-President and Archery Federation of India chief V K Malhotra called the Ministry's guidelines "draconian".
The IOA said the government can appoint its own officials to disburse the money set aside for athletes' training if it didn't want the IOA's involvement.
"Sports Authority of India (SAI) with over 200 Officers and staff on which the Ministry spends Rs 20 crore every year including on Teams Wing, will be proposed for disbursing the funds. The Government spends directly on the athletes as a part of its social responsibility for which the Parliament makes a sanction in the budget," the IOA said.