Kalmadi voted out as AAA chief after 13 years

Pune, July 1 (IANS) Suresh Kalmadi has been voted out as president of the Asian Athletics Association (AAA) 18-20 by Qatari Dahlan al-Hamad after a whopping seven ballots were shockingly found invalid in his home town here Monday.

Thus ended Kalmadi's 13-year run as the boss of Asian athletics and with it his only remaining major sports office. Kalmadi was voted out at the 20th Congress of the continental body here Monday. He has already quit as president of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) in the wake of his arrest and charge sheet in the financial irregularities case connected with the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

Curiously, Kalmadi unseated Indonesian Bob Hassan 19-15 in his backyard in Jakarta and history repeated when he was defeated on his home turf here.

Though Kalmadi has stated that he had no issues with the vote, his supporters were unwilling to digest the count of invalid votes.

"It is too much of a coincidence to believe that seven members in an electoral college of 45 losing their vote for some strange reason. But then in a democratic vote such things do happen. These invalid votes are as good as walking out or abstaining to facilitate a vote in a particular direction," said a delegate to the congress.

Kalmadi, who is out on bail after serving nine months in a Delhi jail for his alleged involvement in New Delhi Commonwealth Games scams, had the numbers despite the Arab camp favouring the Qatari, a senior AAA vice-president.

Kalmadi's election campaign was spearheaded by his close confidante Lalit Bhanot, who is also out on bail in Commonwealth Games corruption case, and he was confident of the victory of the Congress MP from Pune.

"I have no issues and I congratulate Mr Al-Hamad for being elected as president. I am rather relieved that I will be able to work at the grassroots level in athletics," said Kalmadi without any visible rancour on his face.

Al-Hamad said Kalmadi's contribution to Asian athletics can never be forgotten.

"We cannot forget Mr. Kalmadi's contribution. He did his best, now we have to take the baton from him and continue the movement," said Hammad.

Kalmadi was presented a plaque by IAAF president Lamine Diack, who attended the Congress.

Al-Hamad was backed by famous Qatari athlete Talal Mansour, a three-time Asian Games gold medallist in 200 metres.

The 45 member countries had a vote each. India were represented at the Congress by president of the Athletics Federation of India and secretary-general C.K. Valson.

Al-Hamad said his priority now will be to develop sports in Asia as a whole.

"The members have chosen nominees that they think will serve them in this movement. We will work day and night to work for the Asian federation. Overall we have to respect the constitution and apply democracy in the voting. There is no way to satisfy everybody," he said.

Al-Hamad said the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) must now set terms for presidents.

"It is life and you always have to review your rules. IAAF is working on how to make the movement better. There is now way that we will sit still without looking into the future. A lot of funding in athletics is coming from Asia and we would want to develop Asian athletics even more. I will not disappoint in my term as the AAA president," said Al-Hamad.

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