Pune: Raids that lasted eight hours at his houses in Delhi, Mumbai and Pune didn’t seem to affect Suresh Kalmadi’s holiday cheer.
”I’m not hurt. I told you I wanted to give good Games. After that I’m ready for any investigations. So I am happy they’ve come and gone and they’ve taken whatever they wanted,” said the man who chaired the Organizing Committee of the Commonwealth Games.
His laptop and some hard drivers were among the items collected by the CBI which showed up at his homes early this morning.
While Kalmadi – a politician of considerable experience and acumen – keeps up the bluster, he is increasingly finding himself in a corner with allies in the slim-to-none category.
Even before the Games began, near-daily reports in the media proved the voluptuous and naked corruption that seemed embedded in every aspect of the Games. Virtually every major contract -from broadcast rights to sponsorship deals – seemed infested with financial malevolence. The men in charge of the Games seemed to have signed on dotted lines that, when traced, led to the front doors of their families and friends.
At the closing ceremony for the Games, Kalmadi was booed by a stadium packed with thousands, Sonia Gandhi shook her head when he thanked Rahul Gandhi and her for their support and leadership.
On November 9, 2010, Kalmadi was dropped as Secretary of the Congress Parliamentary party. (Read: Suresh Kalmadi sacked from senior Congress post)
Pune has been his bastion – for 30 years, he has represented the city in the Lok Sabha and Rajya SAbha. His lordship covered not just politics, but the cash-rich automobile industry that’s based here.
Kalmadi ensured that Pune remained unwinnable for Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), even as the party strengthened its control over the rest of Western Maharashtra.
The raids in Pune today could impact the municipal elections, scheduled in 2012. The NCP knows that it has a soft target now in Kalmadi – and it’s taking aim.
”Definitely it will impact the Congress. The morale of their workers is down. We will see a political change in the municipal elections of 2011,” said NCP spokesperson Ankush Kakde.
The CBI earlier arrested three of Kalmadi’s close aides. Their interrogation – and today’s raids – have nudged Kalmadi into an odd defense . He doesn’t deny any wrongdoing- instead, he opts for safety in numbers, stressing that he could not have acted alone. ”There’s an entire executive board. There’s an Organizing Committee Finance Committee, another finance committee, all the government officers there,” he says.
Absolutely, says the BJP, whose leaders sarcastically suggested today that Kalmadi turn approver and turn in the big fish in the Congress who allegedly benefitted from the crooked deals he struck.
In the run up to the Games, Kalmadi worked hard to project himself as the face of one of India’s largest events – the Games would be unforgettable, he promised repeatedly. The credit for the Games eventually went to officials like Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit. And Kalmadi is a solitary man now, the unwitting totem of the roughest side of the Games.