The government's bid to limit the tenure of sports administrators met with stiff resistance on Monday, with Indian Olympic Association president Suresh Kalmadi and other angry bosses of sports bodies vowing to do everything to protect their autonomy.
Miffed administrators, many of whom are politicians occupying posts for more than a decade, made it clear that they would oppose the "draconian" directive, setting the stage for a bitter stand-off with the Sports Ministry.
"We are surprised by the government order. It is a draconian order which questions the very basis of the autonomy of IOA and the NSFs. We reject the brazen attempt by Sports Ministry to challenge our autonomy.
"We will take appropriate steps and we are not backing off. We would do everything to protect our autonomy," Kalmadi told reporters in Delhi.
"The top brass of IOA and some NSF top officials had a meeting today. We have called an IOA Executive Committee meeting on May 18 and may convene a General Assembly meeting as well (to discuss the issue)," Kalmadi said.
Cracking down on the sports administrators who have monopolised most of the NSFs, the Sports Ministry on Sunday announced a new regulation which says federation presidents cannot continue for more than 12 years, with or without break, while secretaries or treasurers can serve two terms of four years at a stretch and would have to take a four-year gap before seeking re-election.
The regulation hurts Kalmadi, who is at the IOA's helm since 1996, while it also seeks to end the reigns of NSF chiefs V K Malhotra (archery), Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa cycling), VK Verma (badminton), captain Satish K Sharma (aero club) and BS Adityan (volleyball), who have been occupying the top posts for more than a decade.
Insisting that the autonomy of the IOA and NSFs are paramount, a defiant Kalmadi said, "Our constitution goes to the International Olympic Council (IOC) and no one can meddle with that. All NSFs also send their constitution to the respective international bodies and no one can interfere there either."
He said Gill has no business to issue the order at a time all the sports officials are focussing on the Commonwealth Games and the CWG Coordination Commission is having a meeting in Delhi till Wednesday.
"The timing of the order amazed us. We completely disagree with the hostile approach of the Ministry on the eve of the meeting of Coordination Commission of the Commonwealth Games. The Games are just 150-odd days left and at this juncture the Sports Minster thought it right to issue such an order. We were really amazed at," said the IOA chief.
"CoCom members were, in fact, surprised at what has been happening. It did not do any good to the country," he added.
Kalmadi also dismissed Sports Minister M S Gill's assertion that the guideline would help bring transparency to the functioning of IOA and NSFs.
"As far as transparency is concerned, IOA was brought under RTI (Right To Information) Act by the Ministry and we accepted it with a smile because we have nothing to hide.
"Sports Minister himself has given a letter to court that all the federations have given their accounts properly and submitted to Comptroller and Auditor General. The IOA and NSFs are subject to CAG audit, file annual Income Tax returns, share our annual report and accounts with Registrar of Societies, while SAI General Body has not met for many years.
"There was not a single complaint against any NSF. Everything was in order and we were focussing getting medals in CWG. Sports Minister suddenly made an about-turn and that too on the eve of the Commonwealth Games. Why is this?" he asked.
"As for elections in NSFs, they have always been conducted in a free and fair manner as per their respective constitutions that have been approved by the IOA and respective international federations. In selection matters also, Ministry nominates its own representatives in selection committees," he said.
Kalmadi also challenged Ministry's assertion that if the guidelines are not complied with, NSFs would not be allowed to send teams to participate in international events.
"It is the IOA that gets invitations to send teams for Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games, Asian Games. International federations invite NSFs and not the Sports Ministry to send teams for India. The athletes' entries have to be signed by duly elected presidents or secretaries of NSFs for them to be accepted by international federations," he said citing the Olympic Charter relating to the autonomy of National Olympic Committees.
"IOA has asked all the NSFs not to take any steps to amend their constitutions to include the Ministry directive as this would leave them seriously vulnerable to disqualification as indeed has happened to some member nations. We have also written to all international sports federations in support of NSFS," he added.
Kalmadi also said that continuity of top sports officials are required for India's representation in international federations.
"Most Indian sports lacked a voice within international sports federations. Imposition of such guidelines will worsen the situation. It takes a long time for anyone to make his way in international federations. Continuity and persistence will be missing if the guidelines are embraced in toto."