The XIX Commonwealth games just concluded about a couple of months ago in New Delhi and yet, there has not been much of a progress on the investigation of the bitter Commonwealth Games scam that hit India. Under the leadership of Suresh Kalmadi, the chairman of the Organising Committee of the XIX Commonwealth Games, the costs of holding the games spirally went out of control and exceeded far then what was budgeted initially. It was no surprise when the Chief Vigilance Commission, a government agency handling anti-corruption investigation found that there was high level of financial irregularities in offering contracts to third party contractors and suppliers for construction work and purchase of equipments and other things for the major sporting event, the media and the public at large made big hue and cry about it.
The year is not yet over and already the country has faced a handful of scams this year with the CWG mess being the highlight that shamed the country just not in the commonwealth member countries but in other countries as well. If India did wonders in the games by bagging a record 101 medals and putting the country a notch higher in the sporting arena, the Kalmadi led scam also pushed the country quite a few notches up on the ladder of corruption.
So what is it about Kalmadi that stands out apart from this mega scam he was instrumentally a part of and which is still reeling under the close investigations being conducted by the government agencies? People may remember the games with the close brush it had with under construction work and the little accidents (read bridge collapse) it faced including the financial irregularities and contracts being handed out to selective group of people in bizarre ways. But a handful will remember that everything about the Commonwealth Games was in order at the last moment and if the opening and closing ceremony was anything to go by, it was a classic display of one of the biggest sporting events in the world. With the opening ceremony itself, the world had given India and the XIX Commonwealth Games in Delhi a big thumbs up, a far cry from the pre games media hoopla.
Suresh Kalmadi, born and brought up in Pune, joined the National Defense Academy soon after getting out of the college. 3 years later, he enrolled himself for Pilot’s training and between 1965 and 1972, he served the Indian Air Force and in this period, earned eight medals from the IAF. He was also actively involved in the ’65 and ’75 Indo-Pak wars. Thereafter, he joined the National Defense Academy again but this time on the other side of the table as an Instructor. It was sheer fate that brought him in touch with Sanjay Gandhi who was on one of his visits to Pune. And politics became a part of Kalmadi’s life and Congress Party, his second home.
Kalmadi became the President of the Pune Youth Congress in 1977 and 5 years later, a Member of Parliament in the Rajya Sabha. Thereafter, there was no looking back for the man who’s been an MP continuously over the years except for a brief period between 1995-96, when he was appointed the Minister of State for Railways. Over the years, Kalmadi had also associated himself with various sports bodies and had been responsible for hosting and promoting mega sporting events across the country. He was appointed the leader for sports bodies, the most notable being President of the Indian Olympic Association from 1996 till date. Kalmadi’s love for sports was evident with his organising mega sporting events such as Afro-Asian Games in Hyderabad in 2003, National Games all across the country over the years as well as successfully leading the bid for the XIX Commonwealth Games (though it’s been said that the $7.2 million offer he made to the participating nations was nothing less then a bribe). If that was not all, he was also instrumental in India winning its first Gold medal in the individual category at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Other then sports, he actively was involved in other social and cultural events.
So where did the man go wrong? As most of the Puneities will vouch, Suresh Kalmadi has done a lot for Pune, his home town over the years. He’s been instrumental in transforming Pune from a laid back city to one of international repute. He was also instrumental in transforming Pune Airport to an International Airport with flights to international destinations. As a Railway Minister for a short duration, he oversaw upgrading of stations around the country including new trains for better connectivity specifically between Mumbai and Pune. He also was responsible for the renaming of the Victoria Terminus station in Mumbai to Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. So where did he go wrong? Where??
Suresh Kalmadi has cleared accepted his role in the Commonwealth Games preparation mess but denies of any financial wrongdoings. His words, “Hang me if I am found guilty of corruption…” speaks of the man as a man of integrity. But with him out of the good books of the Indian National Congress on account of the Commonwealth Games mess and the corruption charges, all he can wish for is for the investigating agencies probing the corruption charges to come out with a clean report on him absolving him of any wrong doings. As a sports lover and for a man who put India on the sporting map across the world with the mega and spectacular XIX Commonwealth Games in Delhi this year, we can only hope for the best.