The controversy-marred Indian Olympic Association elections took a dramatic twist today with Randhir Singh withdrawing his nomination for the post of President, clearing the decks for Abhay Singh Chautala to take charge of the high-profile post.
Randhir's withdrawal from the contest on a day of dramatic development put an end to the bitter and acrimonious campaign between the rival factions in the run-up to the elections, to be held on December 5.
After signing his withdrawal before Returning Officer Justice (Retd) V K Bali, Randhir said he was doing so in the light of International Olympic Committee's warning to India to disaffiliate if the elections are held under government's Sports Code and that it would not recognise such a poll.
"IOC sent a letter two days back and it was clear from that letter that these elections would not be recognised by them and India face disaffiliation if the polls are held under the government's Sports Code," Randhir told the waiting reporters at Justice Bali's residence.
"The letter was written by none other than IOC chief Jacques Rogge and Olympic Council of Asia President Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah and I, being an IOC member, cannot go against the institution to which I belong. That's why I am withdrawing my candidature," Randhir, currently an IOC member and Secretary General of both the OCA and IOA, said.
Within hours after Randhir's withdrawal from the contest, Chautala welcomed the decision and congratulated his rival.
"I welcome his decision to withdraw from the contest and I congratulate him for this. From day one, we have been requesting him not to contest the elections and to remain as an elder brother to all of us," Chautala said at his residence.
With the withdrawal of Randhir from the contest, Chautala, a former Indian Amateur Boxing Federation President and currently its chairman, will take over IOA President's post as the third candidate in the fray, Raj Chopra, also withdrew his candidature today.
"I am withdrawing my candidature. My conscience says Abhay Singh Chautala is the person who can take Indian sport and Olympic family forward," Chopra, who is the Delhi Olympic Association President, said with Chautala at his side.
Randhir said he had wanted to fight the elections to "clean up the mess" in the IOA but will have to withdraw as he cannot go against the Olympic Charter and the IOC.
"The IOA is in a mess and there is confusion all around. On one hand, some elections were held without the application of the Sports Code and in some others, including the IOA elections, the Sports Code is going to be applied. It's double standard and you cannot fool around the IOC and the country as well," he said.
"Everybody knows I had decided last year not to contest elections but some of my senior colleagues in IOA and outside requested me to contest and clean up the system. I also wanted to show to the outside world and the citizens of the country that sports in India is moving ahead and it's not all about the controversies," he added.
Randhir warned that the IOC was not issuing a hollow threat and the world body is not a "paper tiger".
"IOC is serious of its warning. I don't want to say much what the IOC will do if the elections are held under Sports Code. Those people who think IOC is a paper tiger will have to take care of the country in that case (of disaffiliation)," Randhir said in a dig to former Sports Minister M S Gill who reportedly termed IOC a "paper tiger".
He patted the government for writing to the IOC to postpone the elections until the issue of under which framework the elections should be held.
"The government did the right thing by writing to the IOC to postpone the elections and settle the issue of which rules and regulations to be used. The IOC, IOA and the government could have sat down and thrash out issue, taking into account the High Court decision also. We could also have gone to the court again and seek clarification," he said.