With less than a week to go for the 2016 calendar to be rolled up and dumped into the bin, Suresh Kalmadi suddenly found himself in the very headlights of the news media that hounded him for corruption charges in the organising of the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi.
The Indian Olympic Association, an organisation he helmed for 6 years, declared him President for Life along with Haryana strongman Abhay Chautala. But good sense prevailed in Kalmadi and, for once, he turned down the offer remembering the witch-hunt and the proximity of spittle-showering anchors. It helped that he is already President for Life of the Asian Athletics Association. One President for Life, it seems, will do. Chautala is also talking of a sacrifice, which means he wants to be President for Life of the IOA but won’t accept the post since the propriety of people who had to resign on corruption charges, can be red-carded even from outside the stadium.
The title itself, President for Life, is a painful one. It seems to go in the face of both morality and mortality. Morality because how can we, Indians, humblest of the humble, God-fearing people, seek anything that takes one into more than human territory. Mortality because the recent press coverage may be unsavoury but the IOA’s rollcall will have their names carefully engraved on it. The IOA, which thought nobody will notice the appointment of not one but two presidents for life, was itself suspended by trigger-happy Sports Minister Vijay Goel who had a starring role with spelling gaffes on twitter and the selfie stick at the Olympics in Rio De Janeiro.
Google Presidents for Life, and you land on a Wikipedia page that lists politicians and rulers who sought immortality as head of state, starting with Toussaint Louverture and has 20 names on it. The prominent ones are Idi Amin, Sukarno, Nkrumah, the two Duvaliers, Banda, Bokassa and Tito. Barring the last who was named President for Life 3 years before he died and held power right from the end of World War II, the rest, again barring a very few, got offed within a year of becoming President for Life. That’s also a good reason for Kalmadi refusing it.
Kalmadi and the CWG excesses were the first wounds among the yearly assaults at the minority UPA 2 government. The reasons were easy to spot: 2010 was CWG and Kalmadi, 2011 was Anna Hazare and his call for a Lokpal, 2012 for Nirbhaya which segued into anti-Congress, and 2013 was the culmination of the twitter war that was powered by APCO for the current incumbent of Bungalow 7, on the road formerly known as Race Course Road. No Congress leader stepped out to tell Kalmadi to take it easy and point out that corruption charges, even if set aside by the court, will remain fresh in people’s memory. It sacked him much later, after Rome had indeed burned to the ground.
But on the last day of 2016, the entire nation and their aunties were outraged by the tweet of a vice-president of a certain party where he said he is out holidaying for a short bit. Some things never change, just like standing in a queue to draw Rs 2,500 or Rs 4,500 of one’s own tax paid money. And the PM’s speech could delay some people’s party but in my immediate neighbourhood, young couples are walking to Hauz Khas Village to welcome another year with spirit, good spirit and more. Traffic threatens New Delhi.
Welcome 2017, fingers crossed.