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Game’s up, Kalmadi arrested

Posted by on April 26, 2011 0 Comment

Suresh Kalmadi, former chairman of the CWG Organising Committee, arrives at the CBI headquarters in New Delhi for questioning Suresh Kalmadi, one of India’s most influential politicians who was sacked as chairman of the Delhi Commonwealth Games Organising Commi-ttee, was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation on Monday for allegedly awarding a contract for the CWG to a Swiss company at an inflated rate of `141 crore in a “pre-meditated” manner.

With the arrest of Mr Kalmadi, alarm bells also rang for the Delhi government which has been named in the Shunglu Committee report on the multicrore CWG scam. Cracking the whip, the Congress also suspended Mr Kalmadi from the primary membership of the party. The Congress, however, did not expel him as it would give Mr Kalmadi the advantage of retaining his Lok Sabha berth and taking on the party in the House. There are indications that the party’s Pune MP might not be given a ticket in the next general election. Sports minister Ajay Maken said his ministry would write to the Indian Olympic Association asking them to remove Mr Kalmadi and elect a new president as it “is embarrassing for the country that the IOA chief has been arrested”.

Two top OC officials, Mr Surjeet Lal and Mr A.S.V. Prasad, were also arrested along with Mr Kalmadi over the contract. All three were arrested for alleged irregularities in awarding the contract to a Swiss company for a timing, scoring and result system. The contract was allegedly awarded to Swiss Timekeeping “arbitrarily, restricting and eliminating competition from other suppliers in a pre-meditated manner”. “The CBI has today arrested the then chairman of the OC of the Commonwealth Games-2010 for conspiracy to cause favour to a private firm based in Switzerland in awarding the contract for a timing, scoring and result system at an inflated cost of `141 crore,” CBI spokesp-erson Dharni Mishra said.

Mr Kalmadi, who has previously denied any wrongdoing, is also being probed for irregularities in the Queen’s Baton Relay in London, overlays contracts worth `640 crore, awarding a catering contract worth `100 crore and the appointment of foreign consultants. The CBI has so far registered eight cases against the OC officials. The companies named, too, have denied any irregularities in award of contracts.

Mr Kalmadi and the two other officials will be in CBI custody Monday night and will be produced in court on Tuesday. The CBI registered a case under IPC Section 120B (conspiracy) read with Section 420 (cheating) and other relevant sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

With the controversy over the Lokpal bill raging, Mr Kalmadi’s arrest could go a long way to show the Manmohan Singh government’s intention to come down hard on corruption. Politically, Mr Kalmadi’s marginalisation in the Congress had begun immediately after the CWG concluded; he was removed as Congress Parliamentary Party secretary, a coveted post.

With the issue of corruption hitting the government hard, severe action was expected against controversial and tainted politicians who were rapidly becoming a “liability” for the UPA-II government. Corruption and the government’s reported “inability” to get tough had become the main plank for Opposition and civil society members to target the Centre.

Mr Kalmadi, who has been facing the heat following the CWG scam, was finally arrested on Monday after day-long questioning by the CBI. Immediately after he arrived at the CBI HQ in a gleaming silver Audi around 10.30 am, Mr Kalmadi was whisked inside. After a nearly four-hour grilling, Mr Kalmadi was declared “arrested” by the CBI. Incidentally, Mr Kalmadi had been evading summons by the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate.
However, the Opposition parties, particularly the BJP and the Left, described Mr Kalmadi’s arrest as a “belated” move by the government. Till now over 10 people, including Mr Kalmadi, have been arrested in connection with the CWG scam. The others arrested include Mr V.K. Verma, former DG, finance; Mr Lalit Bhanot, former secretary-general of the OC; Mr Sanjay Mohindroo, former ADG marketing; Mr M. Jayachandran, former director, finance; Mr T.S. Darbari, DG, marketing; and Mr Kalmadi’s personal assistant, Mr Shekhar Deorukhkar. Asian Age

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