The way for Abhey Singh Chautala's elevation to the post of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president was cleared Sunday when his only rival, Randhir Singh decided to pull out of the poll, protesting the "slanderous campaign" against him.
Randhir Singh and Chautala were locked in a bitter battle for the top post over the last one month. Randhir met the returning officer for the IOA elections, Justice V.K. Bali, in the afternoon and handed over his letter withdrawing from the election. This left in the fray Abhay Singh Chautala and his cover candidate Raj Chopra.
On his way to the Defence Colony residence of Justice Bali here, Randhir Singh told IANS that he has been "distressed" by the "slanderous campaign" being carried out against him by vested interests in the IOA, and that he "would not like to stoop down to their level of electioneering".
"There is no point in holding the elections and creating a rift in the Olympic Committee. Let's sit together with the ministry, solve the problem and then hold elections," Randhir Singh told reporters.
"I am ready to fight the elections, I am not running away, but since the situation has got so convoluted there is no sense in getting involved and creating more problems."
Chautala, who is also the Boxing Federation of India chairman, welcomed Randhir's decision to withdraw from the contest and said he would look forward to the experienced administrator's inputs in taking the organisation forward.
"I thank Randhir (Singh) for withdrawing his nomination and this is precisely what we had been telling him from day one for the unity of IOA. I will do everything to make IOA an efficient organisation," said Chautala.
When pointed out that Randhir said he withdrew because of the slanderous campaign against him, Chautala denied any such campaign.
Responding to the queries from the media persons gathered at his residence, Chautala said, "I still reiterate that we enjoy the support of more than 130 members and we are confident we will win this election with a majority."
"We will also explain to the IOC authorities of the realities at the appropriate time and we believe we will be heard in the right spirit," added Chautala.
Talking about his priorities, Chautala said the first and foremost thing would be to take Indian sports to a new level.
"I would want Randhir to take up the cause of IOA as well as help Indian sport grow," he said.
Chautala also said that he would soon be speaking to Randhir Singh besides meeting him personally.
Randhir Singh had earlier in the day quashed his opponents' claims that he had no numbers and that he was trying to manipulate to get the election postponed indefinitely.
"I know I have the numbers to win the election, but I would not like to enter contest in an atmosphere of hate and calumny, making personal allegations." he said.
"I have decided to pull out because the IOA election is likely to be held as per the Sports Code and as an IOC member I can't be a party to it when I swear by the Olympic Charter."
He said there had been a malicious campaign that as an IOC member he was not eligible to enter the poll fray, but neither the IOC nor IOA the constitution barred him from contesting.
"All they have done is stood on a platform and criticised me. They have only played to the gallery and they think by doing this they can win the elections," he said.
"If they had the numbers, they should have come to the elections and fought it. They have just been screaming from the rooftops that shows they don't have anything and that is why they are trying to convince the world that they have the numbers."
"Today there is a clause in the IOA constitution which is restrictive, where outgoing executive committee members are the only ones that can fight the elections. That is one of the reasons I put my name in because nobody else would fight this lot," he added.
"This clause must be removed. It should be free for everyone to participate."
The IOC in a lengthy letter to acting IOA president Vijay Kumar Malhotra and Randhir Singh made it clear that the National Olympic Committee would be suspended if its elections are held under the sports ministry code, which has a cap on the age and tenure of office-bearers. The IOA has to clarify its stand by Nov 30.
Soon on receiving the IOC letter, Malhotra sent an appeal to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seeking his intervention in withdrawing the sports ministry code. However, the Returning Officer cleared the air, stating that the election will be held as per the National Sports Code as ruled by the Delhi High Court.
The controversial election was rescheduled for Nov 5 after chairman of the poll panel S.Y. Quraishi resigned and in his place Justice Anil Dev Singh was appointed.