'I am confident that my name will be cleared and I will defer acceptance of the honour till such time.'
Suresh Kalmadi chose to back off but Abhay Singh Chautala remained defiant even as the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) on Wednesday invited the Sports Ministry's wrath and widespread outrage for its inexplicable decision to make the scam-tainted duo its Life Presidents.
Kalmadi and Chautala were elevated to the position at the IOA's Annual General Meeting in Chennai on Tuesday, stunning the Indian sporting landscape and leaving the Sports Ministry fuming.
As the storm gained in intensity on Wednesday, Kalmadi chose to step aside even as Chautala remained adamant.
"I thank the Indian Olympic Association for conferring the honour of Life President on me. However, I do not feel that it would be appropriate for me to accept this honour at this time," Kalmadi said in a letter addressed to IOA president Narayanswami Ramachandran.
"I am confident that my name will be cleared and I will defer acceptance of the honour till such time," he added.
The Ministry, on its part, issued a showcause notice to the IOA and also threatened to severe ties with the body if it failed reverse its decision.
"This move is against the constitution of IOA and is not acceptable to the Sports Ministry. I am disappointed by the decision because both are facing cases of corruption. We want transparency in sports. Till the time, these two don't resign or are sacked, we will not deal with the IOA," Sports Minister Vijay Goel said in New Delhi.
Earlier, the IOA top brass went incommunicado for some time before Associate vice-president Narinder Batra, who is now the president of International Hockey Federation, criticised the move and called for the duo to step aside.
"I might be quitting the IOA soon because I can't be associated with something which does not make sense to me in terms of good governance. They should not accept this position till the time their names are cleared," Batra said, breaking ranks with the officials, who voted unanimously for these appointments in Chennai.
However, Chautala came out to defend himself by launching an attack on Goel. But that did little to douse the fire and Goel was joined by Ajay Maken, the Sports Minister in the previous government, in criticising the move and calling it "sad and painful".
"As a former Sports Minister and sports enthusiast, the IOA's decision to appoint Kalmadi and Chautala as Life Presidents of IOA is sad and very painful. This decision is not good for sports and India's image," Maken said.
Chautala, in contrast, wondered what the fuss is all about, going to the extent of ridiculing Goel for expressing pain on his appointment.
"I was surprised by the reaction of Sports Minister Vijay Goel. He was claiming that there are criminal and corruption cases against me. The case against me is not a criminal case, it is a political case," a livid Chautala said.
"Mr Goel has failed in his responsibility as a Sports Minister. I would advise him to fulfil his responsibility as Sports Minister because if he does that, our medal count will increase manifold and he will get credit for that. Instead of getting into a controversy without knowing full facts, he should focus on his job," he added.
Chautala also said that he had done enough for Olympic sports in India to deserve the IOA Life President's post.
Kalmadi served as the IOA president from 1996 to 2011 and was jailed for 10 months for his involvement in the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games corruption scandal but was later released on bail.
Chautala, on the other hand, served as the president of the IOA from December 2012 to February 2014 when the sports body was suspended by the parent IOC for fielding charge-sheeted candidates at the elections. His election as IOA chief was annulled by the IOC.
A top IOA official, who did not wish to be named, said this annulment is the technical reason why Chautala should never have been made Life President in the first place.
"Why everybody is forgetting that the IOC, a day after IOA was suspended, had declared that the election of Chautala and Lalit Bhanot as president and secretary general was null and void? The IOC had refused to recognise Chautala-led dispensation and had communicated with V K Malhotra only," he said.
"So, under the IOA Constitution, only a person who has been a president can only be made Life President. Chautala was never a president of the IOA and so can how he be made a Life President?" the official asked.
There has been speculation that Chautala was elevated as Life President to placate him so that he does not create any further problem in the IOA giving recognition to the newly-formed Boxing Federation of India.
The erstwhile Indian Amateur Boxing Federation, of which Chautala was a former president, is still recognised by the IOA as the NSF for boxing event though it has been de-recognised by the world body AIBA and the Sports Ministry.
Sources said IOA is now inclined to consider BFI's application for recognition positively.
Also speaking on the issue was Justice (retd) Mukul Mudgal, who headed a Supreme Court-appointed committee to inquire corruption in the 2013 Indian Premier League. He believes the IOA has erred by making the two appointments.
"Their (Kalmadi and Chautala) guilt is a matter of trial but I think it (elevation in IOA) was avoidable and they should not have done it. I am told this was not even on agenda. In theory, sports bodies are independent but for all events, they need state funding. The government can stop funding but it will only hurt Indian sports. It's a difficult situation," he opined.
Image: Suresh Kalmadi, left, and Abhay Singh Chautala