Elections for in-turmoil All India Chess Federation to be held on March 10

Chennai, Feb 11 (IANS) The polls to elect the office-bearers of All India Chess Federation (AICF) will be held on March 10 in New Delhi, the Returning Officers has announced.

The election announcement has come a bit late as in the normal scheme of things, the polls should have been held on or before January 3, 2024.

The Returning Officers for the AICF elections — Justice G.S.Sistani (Retired), Former Judge, Delhi High Court, Justice Rang Nath Pandey (Retired), Former Judge, High Court of Allahabad – on Saturday announced the election date.

“Members are hereby informed that the election of the All India Chess Federation for the years 2024-2027 shall be held in New Delhi on the 10th day of March 2024 at the venue to be notified along with election schedule and election procedure,” the two Returning Officers had announced on February 10.

“The Returning Officers should first decide on the electoral college. Several State Chess Associations have been disaffiliated and new or ad hoc bodies are there to run the affairs in those States. So, who are eligible to vote and who does not have to be decided by the Returning Officers. Then the nominations have to be filed,” a chess official told IANS preferring anonymity.

For instance, the chess affairs in Madhya Pradesh are looked after by an ad hoc committee. It is said, that former officials of disaffiliated state units have written to Returning Officers about their eligibility to vote. Interestingly, AICF officebearers who seek reelection have to get two third of the votes polled as per the National Sports Code.

For example, the Delhi High Court unseated Bharat Singh Chauhan as AICF Secretary for not getting two-thirds of the votes polled in the 2021 elections. Ravindra Dongre, who had contested for the Secretary post against Chauhan had filed the case against the latter’s election.

As per the National Sports Code, in case when an office-bearer contesting for second successive term had not able to get two third of the votes polled then the position would thereafter be filled by normal procedure from amongst candidates other than the office-bearer seeking re-election. A similar situation had arisen in 1985 but for the AICF’s President post.

“In 1985 elections in AICF, late B. Varma, president contested for re-election. He was opposed by industrialist, the late N. Mahalingam. While Varma got more votes, he could not muster a two-third majority. Then Mahalingam, the only contestant, became the president,” International Master Atanu Lahiri had told IANS. Lahiri also said that Dongre was the only contestant for the secretary’s post in the elections held in 2021.

“In 1985 two factions fought the elections. As Varma did not secure two-third majority he went out. And as there was no other contestant for the presidential post other than Mahalingam, he assumed charge as the head of AICF. Had there been more than two contestants then there would have been a re-election,” Dongre had said.

As per the AICF’s rules, the vacancies of office-bearers that may arise by resignation, death or otherwise shall be filled by the president and such nominated person shall hold the office till the next General Body meeting.

“The Secretary post fell vacant not by resignation or death. But due to the Delhi High Court saying Chauhan’s election was not as per the National Sports Code,” Dongre had told IANS earlier.

But strangely, the AICF President Dr.Sanjay Kapoor had appointed Vipnesh Bhardwaj as the Interim Secretary thereby stalling Dongre. The position of Interim Secretary fell vacant on November 15, 2023 when Bhardwaj attained the age of 70. And Kapoor appointed Ajeet Kumar Verma as the Interim Secretary to hold office till the office bearers for 2024-2027 are elected.

Verma is the Secretary, Delhi Chess Association. Be that as it may, the elections are slated to be held while the AICF is in turmoil with various allegations being bandied about. “We found some of the papers, inventories missing from the AICF office. It was decided to appoint an external auditor to audit the accounts. If need be, forensic audit will also be carried out. The proposed audit will also check on the payments made to various people,” Verma had told IANS.

The decision to appoint another audit firm was taken at the AICF’s urgent General Body Meeting held on December 28 in Guwahati. The meeting was called to discuss matters relating to the officer-bearers’ election, the financial health of the AICF, various court cases, formation of a legal committee and appointment of law firm Prout solicitors LLP.

Verma said the AICF accounts were audited by audit firm ARSAN & Co. Meanwhile the former Secretary Chauhan said some people are trying to tarnish his image.

“I was the Secretary of the AICF till August 15 and all accounts of the Federation are clean and were passed at the Annual General Meeting,” Chauhan had told IANS.

“The new auditor will also do a forensic audit if he is not satisfied with the books. We are yet to finalize the external auditor who would do the audit,” Verma said earlier.

It is said one faction does not want the elections now while another wants it to be held soon. It is also learnt, one faction wants a unanimous selection of office-bearers instead of an election.

“Whosoever is eligible and willing to contest should be allowed to contest. There should not be any negotiated distribution of positions,” an official of a State Chess Association told IANS preferring anonymity.

It is learnt Ajay H. Patel, a Gujarat-based cooperative banker, and Senior Vice President of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) may throw his hat for the President’s post. A couple of years ago, he was elected as AICF President, but the election was set aside by the Madras High Court. Later in a strategic move, Kapoor was fielded for the post of President as part of the former Chauhan/Patel camp.

In the AICF pot, everything came to boiling recently when Kapoor decided to hold the elections in his home city Kanpur and appointed Pandey as the election Returning Officer. The Gujarat State Chess Association went to the Delhi High Court against Kapoor’s decision, and it ordered the AICF poll to be held in Delhi and also said one more Returning Officer — Sistani — will oversee the poll.

(Venkatachari Jagannathan can be reached at [email protected])

–IANS vj/bc

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