August 2 - India's Sports Minister Ajay Maken has tried to defend the country's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh from criticism over the fact that Suresh Kalmadi was allowed to continue to oversee the preparations for last year's Commonwealth Games in New Delhi despite warnings that he should be removed.
It has emerged that three successive Sports Ministers complained about Kalmadi to Singh, who has been Prime Minister since May 2004, according to the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Tuesday said perhaps he wanted to keep an "arm's length distance" on the issue.
"The fact is that three Sports Ministers of the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) - Sunil Dutt, Mani Shankar Aiyar and M.S. Gill - tried to call the Prime Minister's attention on the person appointed, but he ignored it," BJP leader Arun Jaitley said.
According to the findings through a Right to Information (RTI) application, Dutt, Aiyar and Gill wrote to Singh recommending that Kalmadi be sacked as the chairman of the Organising Committee.
Kalmadi, the President of the Indian Olympic Association, has been in prison since April on corruption charges relating to the Games, which was overshadowed by building delays in the build-up and security threats.
But Maken blamed the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), who were in power at the time Delhi were awarded the Games in November 2003, for appointing Kalmadi and claimed that they had made it impossible to remove him.
"They are the ones, who should clarify," Maken told Parliament.
A report compiled by the Comptroller and Auditor General's report on the Commonwealth Games claims that Singh's office gave Kalmadi complete control over expenses and what to spend the budget on.
Kalmadi also had a major say in all Games-related infrastructure projects, many of these projects are now under scrutiny for poor construction, inflated costs and corrupt tender processes.
But Maken claimed that by the time the extent of the problems involving Kalmadi became clear it was too late to act without jeopardising the very future of the Games, which were being held in India for the first time.
He said that the NDA Government had also not scrutinised and thoroughly verified the contract and any viable alternative to the provisions were neither explored nor suggested.
"There were two options," Maken said.
"Either to scrap the Commonwealth Games or to go with the Host City Contract, which was signed by the NDA regime in November 2003.
"There was no third option."
Maken claimed that he had been among those who though Kalmadi should have been replaced.
"We all questioned these things," he said.
"But they could not have done [anything]."
Kalmadi, 67, was today let out of Tihar Jail briefly for medical tests amid reports that he is suffering from dementia.
"He has several cardio-vascular system-related problems, and diabetes," said said Dr M V Padma, professor at the department of neurology at All India Institute of Medical Sciences.
"We cannot say anything until all the test results have come.
"But it does not mean he is suffering from dementia."
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April 2011: Kalmadi sacked as President of Indian Olympic Association
April 2011: India risking London 2012 ban with determination to remove Kalmadi from top post
April 2011: Kalmadi arrested on Commonwealth Games corruption charges
February 2011: Kalmadi "to be arrested" but hits back at Government
February 2011: Kalmadi under more pressure as two closest aides arrested in corruption probe