New Delhi: Abhay Singh Chautala on Wednesday took over as the president of the Indian Olympic Association while the tainted Lalit Bhanot became the secretary general after the IOA conducted its controversial elections defying the IOC's directive not to go ahead with the polls.
Chautala and Bhanot were declared elected unopposed in the polls conducted by an Election Commission made up of retired High Court Justices, just a day after the IOC suspensed the national Olympic body.The world body had on Tuesday said that the IOA elections will be "null and void" following its suspension.
Just after his election to the high-profile post, Chautala defended the decision to go ahead with the polls despite IOC's directive, saying that the IOA had to abide by the Delhi High Court order.
"We have completed a free and fair election under three eminent retired High Court Justices. I want to re-iterate that we have not done anything wrong by going ahead with the polls. We have to obey the law of the land," he told reporters.
"It was an unanimous decision of the House that we have done anything wrong. The IOA had to bear the brunt of the tussle between the government and the IOC. Now we will explain to the IOC the circumstances under which we had to go ahead with the elections. We hope that we will be able to convince the IOC to reconsider the suspension. We will also meet the Sports Minister and the Prime Minster and plead before them to drop the Sports Code which had brought us to this situation. We will work to lift this suspension as soon as possible," he said.
Bhanot, who was jailed and later released on bail for his alleged involvement in the Commonwealth Games corruption scandal, said that he would quit from the post of IOA secretary general if he is proven guilty by the law of the land.
"I have not been proven guilty. I will quit if I am proven guilty by the law of the land," he said.
Virendra Nanavati and N Ramachandran were respectively elected unopposed to the posts of senior vice-president and treasurer. The elections were held for the eight posts of vice-presidents, six joint secretaries and 20 Executive Council Members. There were seven candidates in the fray for vice-presidents' posts, 15 for joint secretaries and 28 for Executive Council Members.
Akhilesh Das Gupta, B P Baishya, Parminder Singh Dhindsa, Anurag Thakur, R K Anand, Tarlochan Singh, Narinder Batra and G S Mander were elected as vice-presidents in the elections in which 154 members cast their votes. Those elected as joint secretaries were Anandeswar Pandey, Raja K Sidhu, Rakesh Gupta, Kuldeep Vats, Rajeev Mehta and S H Hashmi.
The newly elected Executive Council members are: I D Nanavati, B S Langde, Brij Bhushan Saran, Dhanraj Choudhary, Mohd Mustaque Ahmad, Adhip Das, Rajesh Bhandari, Suresh Sharma, Balbir Singh Khuswaha, Bhupinder Singh Bajwa, Ashok Sahota, Col N Kumar, P K Pradhan, Vagish Pathak, R K Gupta, Namdev Shirgaonkar, Sahdev Yadav, V A Shiyad, Rana Gurmeet Sodhi and V S Sisodia.
Chautala also lashed out at Randhir Singh for misleading the IOA, the IOC and the government.
"Raja Randhir Singh is responsible for this mess. He had misled the IOA, the IOC and the government. Being an IOC member from the country, he should have defended the IOA and pleaded our case before the IOC. He did not do that and instead was instrumental in getting letters after letters from the IOC against the IOA," he said.
"He boasted before withdrawing his candidature for the president's post that he has got the numbers. Today everybody knows now who has the numbers," Chautala added.
The new IOA president also slammed lawyer Rahul Mehra for trying to stop the elections by filing cases in the courts. Chautala said that an IOA delegation will meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in a few days' time to request him that the Sports Code should be dropped.
"This Code has been there since 1975 and successive governments have not been able to make it into a law. In two or three days an IOA delegation of 8-10 members will meet the Prime Minister and request him to drop the Code," he said.
"We also will form a committee to write to the IOC explaining our position. We will seek a meeting with the IOC so that we can explain our position. We respect the IOC's decision. Our plea is that please hear from our side also. Whatever decision the IOC takes we will abide by it but please hear our side of the story first," he added.
Chautala also made a slew of announcements which he said was aimed at taking Indian sport ahead in the country's bid to win more medals in the next Olympics.
"We have decided to nominate three advisors to the IOA and all of them are eminent former sportspersons. We have decided to nominate P T Usha, Dilip Tirkey and P Gopichand as the three advisers," Chautala said.
"We are also forming a nine-member Ethics Commission which will have Arjuna Awardees and Olympians from various discipines."
After taking charge as the IOA president, Chautala presided over a meeting of the new office bearers. He proposed the name of V K Malhotra as the Life President of the IOA and the House adopted it.
"In the two years as acting IOA chief, Malhotra had taken the whole of the IOA fraternity together and but for him we would not have fought unitedly in this times of difficulty," Chautala said in praise of Malhotra.
He also constituted a five-member committee, to be headed by Malhotra, to form committees to look into various aspects of day-to-day affair.
"We will work together as a team and every member of the IOA should consider himself as the president. The aim is to take Indian sports forward and to win more medals in the Olympics four years from now."
Chautala also proposed to increase the number of vice-presidents from eight to 12 or 14 and the joint secretaries from current six to eight. The House agreed to his proposal and authorised him to make the nominations.
"India is a big country and to make IOA more representative, I feel that we should add four to six more vice-presidents. Also the number of joint secretaries will be increased from current six to eight. We will announce these names and the various committees in a couple of days."