When the United Progressive Alliance government in 2004 tried to appoint the then Sports Minister Sunil Dutt chairman of the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee (OC), there were loud protests from senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader Vijay Kumar Malhotra. He charged the government with defiance of the Olympic Charter, under which only the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) could head the OC.
The manner in which Suresh Kalmadi of the IOA “managed” to become chairman of the OC — and not a government nominee in violation of the stipulation in the original games contract of November 2003 — has become the main contentious issue between ruling and opposition parties in Parliament. Each side is blaming the other for letting this happen.
Even as the two main parties fight it out, it has now come to light from contemporary records of reports in The Hindu that a Group of Ministers in October 2004 decided that Mr. Dutt would be chairman of the OC.
The very next day, on October 26, there were loud and public protests by Mr. Malhotra, who was not only a senior office-bearer of the IOA but also the BJP's deputy leader in the Lok Sabha, next in command after L.K. Advani in the House.
This is what Mr. Malhotra said on October 26, 2004 as reported in The Hindu of the following day: “It is the prerogative of the IOA to put in place the committee to organise the Games it had successfully bid for … Nowhere in the world, be it Olympic Games or the respective continental games, that the government takes over the organisation from the National Olympic Committee.”
Mr. Malhotra was reported to have blamed the government for “unilaterally” setting up the OC for the Games “in defiance of the Olympic Charter.” He said he was not personally opposed to Mr. Sunil Dutt, “but this is complete sidelining of the IOA and that may lead to negative repercussions in the sporting world.” In short, he favoured an IOC nominee — who was Mr. Kalmadi — as chairman of the OC.
This was later reinforced by the fact that Mr. Malhotra proposed Mr. Kalmadi's name and he was elected by the IOA to that post, in which he remained entrenched till the end of the Games in 2010.
Strangely, according to Mr. Malhotra, the UPA government tried to “take advantage” of the fact that the IOA had not yet set up the OC (at the time it was decided Mr. Dutt be the head of the OC). He said the setting up of the OC by the IOA had been delayed by impending IOA elections due on November 1.
Mr. Malhotra went on to say that the Commonwealth Games Federation must be registered as a “company” and since the government “cannot be a company,” a government nominee could not be chairman of the OC. The IOA was yet to decide how to register the CGOC as a company. He noted that there was the unresolved case against the Asiad 1982 Organising Committee, which was registered as a society (and not a company).
In short, the BJP strongly defended an IOA nominee — Kalmadi — as chairman of the OC as opposed to the efforts by the UPA to get Mr. Dutt to head the OC as a government nominee.