New Delhi, Nov 25 (IANS) Randhir Singh, the lone member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) from India, Sunday decided to withdraw his candidature for the post of president of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) protesting the "slanderous campaign" against him.
Randhir met IOA Returning Officer Justice V.K. Bali in the afternoon and handed over his withdrawal letter, leaving Abhay Singh Chautala and Raj Chopra as his cover candidate left in the fray.
On his way to the Defence Colony residence of Justice Bali, Randhir Singh told IANS that he has been "distressed" by the "slanderous campaign" being carried out against him by vested interests in the IOA and that "he would not like to stoop down to their level of electioneering".
"There is no point in holding the elections and creating a rift in the Olympic committee. Let's sit together with the ministry, solve the problem and then hold elections," Randhir Singh told reporters.
"I am ready to fight the elections, I am not running away but since the situation has got so convoluted there is no sense in getting involved and creating more problems."
Randhir Singh said he would not like to take his opponents on as a presidential candidate to maintain the dignity of office and he would "expose them" as a sportsman, having been an Olympic shooter.
"As a sportsman I have represented the country with distinction and have never sought any office. When I was given the opportunity to serve sport I did my best as a sports administrator," said Randhir Singh, who is the IOA secretary general.
"I don't have to fight the elections to clean up this mess. I am much better off not fighting the elections because now I will fight them as a member of the IOC. I am free to do what I feel like."
Randhir also quashed the claims of his opponents that he had no numbers and that he was trying to manipulate to get the election postponed indefinitely.
"I know I have the numbers to win the election, but I would not like to enter contest in an atmosphere of hate and calumny, making personal allegations.
"I have decided to pull out because the IOA election is likely to be held as per the Sports Code and as an IOC member I can't be a party to it when I swear by the Olympic Charter."
He said there had been a malicious campaign that as an IOC member he was not eligible to enter the poll fray, but neither the IOC nor IOA the constitution barred him from contesting.
"All they have done is stood on a platform and criticised me, they have only played to the galleries and they think by doing this they can win the elections," he said.
"If they had the numbers they should have come to the elections and fought it. They have just been screaming from the rooftops that shows they don't have anything and that is why they are trying to convince the world that they have the numbers."
"Today there is a clause in the IOA constitution which is restrictive, where outgoing executive committee members are the only ones that can fight the elections that is one of the reasons I put my name in because nobody else would fight this lot," he added.
"This clause must be removed. It should be free for everyone to participate."
IOA senior vice−president Tarlochan Singh contested Randhir Singh's claim, saying that as a nominated member of the IOC he could not be contesting any election.
While welcoming Randhir Singh's decision to withdraw from the election, Tarlochan Singh pointed out that Randhir Singh never contested any election and he was nominated as secretary general by IOA president.
Tarlochan Singh said now that Randhir Singh had quit, the others in his group would also take the cue and withdraw.
"Randhir (Singh) did the right thing and the new president should get a free hand to select his team as has been the convention for a number of years," Tarlochan Singh told IANS.
"There has been a tradition in the IOA that the president picks his team after his election and that healthy convention should continue. I appeal to all those who filed nominations as Randhir Singh's followers to withdraw their nominations so that an atmosphere of bonhomie and consensus prevails in the Olympic family."
Randhir Singh dropped the bombshell just when everything is set for the Dec 5 election, though the rival factions are still undecided whether it should be held under the Sports Code or the Olympic Charter.
The Chautala faction is clear that it will only follow the Olympic Charter and some clauses of the Sports Code.
The IOC in a lengthy letter to acting IOA president Vijay Kumar Malhotra and Randhir Singh made it clear that the National Olympic Committee would be suspended if the election is held under the Code, which has a cap on the age and tenure of office−bearers. The IOA has to clarify its stand by Nov 30.
Soon on receiving the IOC letter, Malhotra sent an appeal to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seeking his intervention in withdrawing the Code. However, the Returning Officer cleared the air stating that the election will be held as per the National Sports Code as ruled by the Delhi High Court.
The controversial election was rescheduled for Nov 5 after chairman of the poll panel S.Y. Quraishi resigned and in his place Justice Anil Dev Singh was appointed.