Monday, October 5, 2009

Power & Politics / Mail Today, October 05, 2009

FOR THE government and indeed for the Congress party, the biggest challenge on the international front lies not in the NPT, CTBT or getting a seat on the Security Council. It is the Commonwealth Games that are due to begin in New Delhi exactly a year from now. The CWG is the biggest sporting event to be held in the country since the 1982 Asian Games. When New Delhi won the bid for the CWG in 2004, India had hoped to use the games to showcase the country’s economic progress in much the same way that China did during Beijing 2008.

Unless a miracle is pulled off, the games are doomed to become an international sporting disaster which, in an ironic twist to the tourism ministry’s “ Incredible India” campaign, will end up showing just how incredibly slothful the second fastest growing economy in the world is.

Besides a loss of face, forfeiting the games could impact India vastly on the international front. Now that another Gandhi Jayanti has come and gone and Rahul Gandhi has exceeded his wildest expectations by persuading his partymen to spend a day with a Dalit family, there are ministers and Congress leaders who believe it’s time Rahul shed symbolism and got down to serious business by taking up the challenge of ensuring the successful conduct of the CWG. That sets my mind back to the 1980’ s.

Then, as now, we were running woefully behind schedule. An international commitment that the Indira Gandhi government had given in 1976 to host the 1982 games was ignored by the Janata Party government which thought it was no big deal if India forfeited the games. When Indira Gandhi came back to power in 1980, she had just about two and a half years to get the then overgrown village that was Delhi into shape for the Asian Games. She sidelined Vidya Charan Shukla, then chief of the Indian Olympic Committee ( the post is now occupied by Suresh Kalmadi), appointed a Special Organising Committee with Buta Singh as its chief and appointed her son Rajiv Gandhi as a special invitee to the SOC. Things began to move at a rapid pace with Rajiv taking special care to ensure that nothing was lacking and no effort spared. He assigned his close aide Arun Singh to monitor the progress of all facilities on a day to day basis and brought in people known for their competence into key areas.

Sankaran Nair, Indira Rajiv Gandhi Gandhi’s security chief, was made secretary general of the SOC. Jagmohan was brought back from Goa where he was Lt Governor and given a key charge and so were KP Singh Deo, Kiran Bedi, HKL Bhagat, Air Vice Marshal HL Kapur and others. They were assisted by a volunteer army of thousands.

Rajiv himself visited the stadia, the games village and other sites daily and held meetings, often twice or thrice a day. I remember once he took me along on one of his inspection tours. It lasted nearly eight hours during which time we visited the Asiad Village, the indoor stadium on the Yamuna banks near ITO, the swimming complex at Talkatora and the main venue, the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium. His efforts bore fruit and the ninth Asiad was a spectacular sporting success and an organisational triumph for India.

Long before Obama made it a catch phrase, Rajiv showed us “ Yes We Can”. But now there is a real danger that this time next year, as a nation we would have collected a lot of eggs on our face. This week, Mike Fennel, the CWG federation chief, will meet Manmohan Singh in New Delhi to tell him that India stands the risk of being branded a pariah on the international sporting stage. That’s why I wholly support the ministers who feel only Rahul can save the games. He should step in, induct his young Congress colleagues, including ministers, many of whom aren’t doing enough because the senior ministers refuse to allocate any meaningful work to them.

They are all incredibly gifted young men whose talents are wasted in the council of ministers. Admirers of the young Rahul feel that he should, as his father did, get rid of the fellows who have been lining their pockets in the name of the CWG, and lead the team. I am sure they will deliver. We can still put up a spectacular show that will make all Indians proud.

1 comment:

AMAR said...

has the situation improved as yet? except for what & how much Sheila Dixit is able to pull it off, It is an impending disaster in world sporting arena if Mr. Kalmadi and others responsible do not put their act together