Thursday, 26 March 2015

Indian basketball: It is not exactly a number game !

Indian basketball looks to be compensating for not being in the news for many years. Despite the cricket World Cup keeping every Indian glued to the fortunes of the Indian side, some newspapers have been able to provide the big headlines to the ongoing imbroglio.
With the Indian cricket team literally bleeding blue in Sydney in the semifinals on Thursday, some of the country's sporting concern is expected to be diverted towards the Annual General Meeting of the Basketball Federation of India (BFI), scheduled to be held in Bengaluru on March 27.
Normally, the AGM is a routine affair and does not generate much interest. However, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the BFI, Roopam Sharma, has provided an unexpected twist by calling an AGM in Pune on March 28. Since, the CEO has been handling a lot of resources over the last three years, thanks to the benevolence of Reliance, a lot of people have thoughtfully sided with her.
However, the president of BFI, Rajdeep Singh Gill, is the Constitutional authority of the BFI, especially in terms of calling the AGM or in the more serious business of conducting the election.
The Union Sports Ministry_which incidentally has not granted annual recognition for BFI for 2015 as the federation had failed to amend its Constitution by incorporating the age and tenure class for the office bearers_has nominated Satyajit Sankrit as the government observer for the meeting in Bengaluru.
The International basketball federation, FIBA, has also appointed Mageshwaran Saba as the observer for the meeting in Bengaluru.
In a letter from Beirut, the FIBA regional director for Asia, Hagop Khajirian has conveyed that Saba would attend the meeting as an observer, and has intimated the same to the president of FIBA Asia, Saud Bin Ali Al-Thani.
The BFI president has already quoted the Constitution of the federation as well as the government guidelines in the form of Sports Code 2011, in emphasising that the CEO had no authority to appoint a Returning Officer or call a meeting in Pune on March 28. So, that meeting has already been labeled as `illegal'.
Only 44 names of the State and unit representatives were sent for the meeting in Bengaluru and that will serve as the electoral college.
The nominations for the various posts are as follows:
Presidnet : K. Govindaraj; Senior Vice president: Teja Singh Dhaliwal; Vice-presidents: Ajay Sud, Dr. DR Saini, Shafiq Sheikh, Bhupendra Shahi, L. Suren; Secretary general: Chander Mukhi Sharma; Associate secretaries: Shakti Sinh Gohil, Jugraj Singh, Gautam Ganguly, Fr. Ralin De Souza, T. Chandalraya Naidu; Treasurer: V. Ragothaman; Executive members: Manish Sharma, Ashley Do Rosario, TA Andrapathi, TVSN Prasad, Norman Isaac and Dr. Prakash Paquiaraj Sandou.
Indeed, it is a fair argument that the president was not in a position to accept nominations for the meeting in Pune, which was called without his consent as declared by the secretary general Ajay Sud, who had since resigned on moral grounds.
Ironically, as part of the amendments of the Constitution which was proposed months earlier, the BFI will remove the posts of CEO and deputy CEO. Only two CEOs, but poles apart in terms of how they executed their job for the welfare of the players.
It may be unfair to blame one person for all the ills of the BFI, but Harish Sharma, for whom the CEO post was created, was too much of an angel, and it was tough for anyone, to follow his foot steps, including his wife.
In the present context, it is indeed a very clear case of the CEO getting carried away by the power and financial clout, and being tempted to acquire the political influence, in her earnest attempt to hijack the federation.
Thus, it may eventually be proven to everyone that it is after all not a number game. For, numbers often do not tell the truth.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Indian basketball: Cat jumps out of the bag !

In the ongoing power struggle in the Basketball Federation of India (BFI), the cat is out of the bag !
Poonam Mahajan, the daughter of former Union Minister Pramod Mahajan, who was shot dead by his brother at his home in 2006, has been nominated for the post of president by the faction masterminded by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of BFI, Roopam Sharma.
The 34-year-old Poonam, elected Member of Parliament, of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from Mumbai North Central constituency, was inducted into Indian basketball straightaway as the president of the Maharashtra association in January. So, within three months, she would be the president of BFI, out of nowhere, if her case gets ratified.
Roopam herself would be the secretary general of the federation while Mukut Medhi, the vociferous member from Assam, has been nominated for the post of treasurer.
Much in contrast, the group headed by the president of BFI, RS Gill, who has served three terms in office, has nominated the senior vice president, K. Govindraj of Karnataka, for the post of president. Govindraj has been the secretary of Karnataka association for more than 15 years. He has also been president of the Karnataka Olympic Association. He has the experience, among others, of hosting the Asian basketball championship in Bengaluru.
Chander Mukhi Sharma of Chandigarh and V. Raghothaman of Puducherry have been nominated for the post of secretary general and treasurer respectively, by the group headed by RS Gill, who had combined strongly with the late Harish Sharma, in projecting a healthy image of the game.
Incidentally, the president alone is empowered by the Constitution of the BFI to decide on the election.
The secretary general of BFI, Ajay Sud who quit on being forced to change the venue of the election from Bengaluru to Pune, made a categorical announcement that he had made the change without the approval of the president, and had allowed his authority to be usurped by a 'scanned signature''. His ├žlarification has been conveniently sidelined as that of ''Himachal Pradesh secretary general'' by the CEO, while she has vehemently questioned the authority of the president to accept the resignation of Ajay Sud !
Moreover, the president has also been accused of not entertaining part of the electoral college. Interestingly, most of the member associations nominated members to both the meetings in Bengaluru on March 27 and Pune on March 28. Some of them sent the nominations only for the Pune meeting to the BFI office, for which the president had not advised any notice.
Moreover, the president was clear that only elected members of the state could be nominated, whereas people like Nandini Basappa of Karnataka has been nominated from Assam, and Ashok Rangeen of Delhi, from Rajasthan !
It is also pointed out that most of the members, with honourable exceptions, supporting the CEO group have done precious little for basketball in their state, and hardly field teams for the national championships. However, in a democratic set up, there is an equality of right for competence and mediocrity, experience and youthful arrogance, that cannot be questioned.
For sure, running a national federation is not a bed of roses. It is a struggle to conduct every national championship, and the numerous age group events, apart from building the various national teams. With the rich resources from Reliance, ensuring a better life for the players at least during the national championships, the biggest challenge of rising resources is not faced by the current set up of BFI.
That explains the urge of all and sundry to jump into the administration, to control and capitalise on the readily available resources. Like the overwhelming support of the government, the beauty of Indian sports is that every solution leads to many problems !
The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and the Union Sports Ministry have the power to set the house in order, but they are also often driven by the political will and vested interests.
In such a scenario, it may be difficult to ensure justice. But, hope springs eternal, and miracles do happen.

Why blame anyone, when the scriptures had spelt long ago that anarchy would spread its tentacles in the Kali Yuga, reducing morality and speeding up the degeneration of civilisation !

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Indian basketball: A dream gone sour !

The rigid stand of the Chief Executive Officer of the Basketball Federation of India (BFI), Roopam Sharma, has further strengthened the division of Indian basketball.
The blame is being pinned on the CEO, even though two parties are pulling the federation in two opposite directions, as it was she who has gone on to hijack the powers of the federation after it was agreed by the senior members of the federation to have the Annual General Meeting in Bengaluru on March 27.
Interestingly, there is a note prepared by the secretary general, Ajay Sud, in which all the eight officials, including the CEO and deputy CEO, Prem Pal, have signed, agreeing to the original venue and date.
President RS Gill, K. Govindaraj, Teja Singh Dhaliwal, Ajay Sud, Dr. DR Saini and Ashok Rangeen were the other members who were party to the decision taken at the meeting on February 26, in Delhi.
''The meeting was chaired by Sh. RS Gill, President, Basketball Federation of India. Sh. RS Gill requested all members present to work together to form a new body, for which elections are due in March 2015. After a detailed discussion, it was resolved that the meeting will be held at Bangaluru on 27th March 2015'', reads the note signed by the secretary general, which has been endorsed by all the eight senior members of BFI with their signature..
With two venues for the AGM in Bengaluru and Pune, on two dates March 27 and 28, there are two sets of documents, including the electoral college, which has caused considerable anguish in some quarters.
The electoral college, as published by the CEO on the BFI website has 62 names, whereas the one issued by the President has only 44. The rest of the names had apparently been sent only to the BFI office. Moreover, the president had restricted the nominations by the state units only to ''elected members of the respective association''.
Actually, the CEO has pleaded with the president in a letter dated March 11, seeking to correct the validity of nominations, requesting him to ''kindly circulate the revised notification in this regards to all affiliated units urgently''.
There is a strong communication from the general secretary of the Assam Basketball Association, Mukut Medhi, a vice president of BFI, written a week later, suggesting ''ulterior motive'' by the president and his ''cohorts''.
''Your arbitrary actions/decisions are bound to create friction among the members and divide BFI further. They are definitely not in the interest of BFI, nor the sport that we endeavour to promote. This also sends a wrong signal to our partners, IMG Reliance, who are the major source of our finance'', writes Medhi, in his letter to the president.
Well, the finance from IMG Reliance, to the tune of a few crore rupees every year, is already a dream gone sour for the players, even though millions are being spent in conducting the various national championships and national camps from the fund.
The former secretary general Harish Sharma for whom the post of CEO was formed after he had completed two terms, had announced the distribution of about 36 lakh rupees to the players, including juniors, and coaches, in January 2011. The graded payment with the leading players getting Rs.30,000 per month, the second line, Rs.20,000 and the juniors Rs.10,000 was awarded in retrospective effect from October 2010, during the presentation ceremony of the national championship in Delhi.
However, as one player put it succinctly, the payments to the players was stopped abruptly, ''when Harish Sharma was hospitalised''.
The much loved Harish who single-mindedly strove for the welfare of the players died of tuberculosis in brain in February 2012. His wife Roopam was requested, by the BFI president RS Gill and his team, to take charge of the post of CEO in March 2012. The steering committee's decision to draft her was ratified by the AGM then.
Roopam on her part, promised to uphold the high standards set by her husband in promoting the game, when she took charge as the CEO.
Much in contrast, months later, it was decided to abolish the posts of CEO and deputy CEO by the BFI, and part of the current power struggle has been triggered by such an attempt. The basic friction at this stage is caused by the move of the president to amend the Constitution of the federation, to bring it back to its original form.
Otherwise, it is difficult to fathom the reluctance of the CEO to take over the reins of the federation as the secretary general. In fact, the Gill faction has kept the post of secretary general still open for Roopam, even though she has other designs.
She may not take a salary from BFI, as Roopam is working in Indian Airlines, but it is felt that there is a lot of expenses on the CEO, running into a few lakh rupees every year, and the deputy CEO who is also paid a handsome salary apart from perks.
In trying to extend a strong support for Harish Sharma, the BFI had inadvertently bequeathed a lot of powers to the present CEO. If you ask for trouble, you invariably get it.
Even though the Union government has responded to the request of BFI for an observer for the election, ''to be held in Pune'', it has addressed the communication to the secretary general. The government generally deals only with the secretary general or the president. The position of CEO is a rare new phenomenon in some sports federations. Looking at the present development, the idea of CEO may not find much favour, owing to the considerable complications, even though it opens new avenues for people to hold on to power.
On the other hand, the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) has taken note of the meeting in Pune, and written back to the CEO, even though Gill and his team are persuading the concerned parties to realise that they alone have the Constitutional authority to conduct the AGM and the related meetings, in Bengaluru.
The plot should thicken soon, as it is almost time to finalise the nominations for various posts. It is surprising why nobody has taken the matter to court as yet.
Maybe, it is because Indian basketball has temporarily stopped being played on a court with distinct lines.
There is no doubt that Indian basketball is indeed a dream gone sour !

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Indian basketball, split explicit !

Indian basketball that had stood united for long, is a divided house today.

The president of the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) RS Gill, a
retired police officer, and the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Roopam
Sharma, have issued different circulars that have caught the members
by surprise.

In effect, the Annual General Meeting of the BFI has been scheduled to
be held in Bengaluru on March 27 and in Pune on March 28, by the two

While there is no doubt that it would be convenient for everyone concerned
to hold the AGM and a series of meetings in Pune, on the eve of the
Federation Cup to be held there from March 29, it was originally
everyone’s accepted idea to host the meeting in Bengaluru on March 27.

In fact, after a meeting of the leading office bearers of the
federation including the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) it was
unanimously agreed to elevate the senior vice president of BFI, K.
Govindaraj as the president and to have CEO Roopam Sharma as the
secretary general.

Quite significantly, it was also decided in the meeting that the post
of the CEO would be abolished as it was basically meant to accommodate
the late Harish Sharma after he had completed two terms as the
secretary general, and was not eligible to continue further in that
post as per the government guidelines.

On the death of Harish Sharma, his wife Roopam Sharma was elected as
the CEO in March 2012, Prem Pal Singh had been serving as the
deputy CEO from the time of Harish. There has been a power struggle for quite some time, as
the financial control apparently rested with the CEO with IMG-Reliance
pumping a few crores of rupees every year for the development of the game.

The attempted amendment of the BFI Constitution to scratch the posts of CEO and deputy CEO has been hanging fire for nearly two years.

Meanwhile, a communication to the members was sent on February 28 about the AGM,
with a promise that the details would follow shortly, as advised by the BFI
president. However, the secretary general of the BFI, Ajay Sud, sent a
circular on March 2, stating that the AGM would be held in Pune on
March 28. Perturbed at having to go against the original understanding and 

directive of the president, the secretary general tendered his resignation the same
day, after sending the circular.

‘’On moral ground and taking responsibility for what has happened, I
extend my resignation . . . ‘’, wrote Ajay Sud, in his communication
to the president, with copies to all the members of the association.

He has since revealed that he had allowed his signature to be used for
the second circular.

''I was pressured by some people to change the venue of meetings to Pune 

for which I gave my consent without the approval of President under 
my scanned signatures on 2nd March 2015. As this action of mine was 
not according to my conscience and moral values. . . 
I resigned from the post of Secretary General'', clarified
Ajay Sud on Thursday.

The president RS Gill, who has served three terms in
office and will be stepping aside after the AGM, took charge of the
situation by sending the circulars to the members and also appointing
a Returning Officer for the election to be held in Bengaluru on March
27, as he derived the powers to do so in the absence of the secretary general, 

as per the Constitution of the BFI.

However, the BFI with its headquarters in Delhi, swung into action and
called the actions of the president as ‘illegal’ and
‘unconstitutional’. It has also sought the intervention of the Union
Sports Ministry and the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), stressing
that the president had no authority to act the way he had done. 

‘’Under the given circumstances, the President should have called for
an emergency meeting of the Executive Board to discuss the status and
to take the consent of the General House’’, wrote CEO Roopam Sharma,
emphasising that she had the ‘’sole legal authority to represent BFI
including all correspondence as per the constitution of BFI’’.

Of course, the BFI Constitution is clear on the subject and categorically gives the 
power to the president, to act the way he has done.

With the communication channels between the two power centres
irreparably broken, the members have now been
torn apart, and wonder where they should head for the AGM.

It is understood that the whole unpleasant scenario has been caused
owing to the spontaneous attempt to accommodate a young political
personality as the head of the federation, possibly to channelise the power of the Union
Government !

The character of the Sports Ministry, which keeps referring to the Sports Code 
at the drop of a hat,  will be put to the acid test now.
Oh, it has been too long since I visited this page. Am sorry for staying away. Time has come to revive this blog, as I think I have a lot to say !