Azhar backs out, Verma re-elected BAI President

Chennai: The high-voltage build-up ended in an insipid climax with former cricketer Mohd Azharuddin’s last minute back-out paving way for V K Verma’s re-election as the Badminton Association of India President for a fourth successive term here on Sunday.

Verma was re-elected “unopposed” at the BAI’s Annual General meeting in which the body nominated national coach Pullela Gopichand and former shuttler Ami Ghia as players’ representatives to its Executive Committee with voting rights.

Azharuddin, a cricketer-turned-politician, failed to present his nomination papers and was reportedly not even in town.

Talking to reporters, a jubilant Verma said he won unopposed and said no one badmouthed Azharuddin for his no-show after promising a tough fight.

“Nothing bad was spoken about him. Our aim is to make players win the World Championship. We are more focused on that than these issues,” Verma said.

Apart from Verma’s re-election, the AGM also put its stamp of approval on Hemant Biswas Sharma as the vice-president named three Secretaries – Dr Filha, Omar Rashid and Punnaiah Choudhary.

Three government units – Railways, Services and Universities – reportedly boycotted the election claiming that the process was not transparent.

Azharuddin, who was rumoured to be backed by the Sports Ministry, had earlier approached the sessions court in Andhra Pradesh’s Rangareddy district seeking a stay on the election but his plea was rejected.

Azharuddin had created a stir by announcing his candidature for the elections with Verma initially claiming that the ex-captain was ‘ineligible’ to contest as he was serving a life ban for alleged match-fixing.

The Sports Ministry too had its say on the matter and had accused BAI of not informing them about the elections as is required.

It later appointed an observer, Deepika Kacchal, for the elections despite vehement opposition from BAI.

Verma has been heading BAI for 12 years, the maximum that a National Sports Federation head is allowed under the Sports Ministry’s new guidelines but the BAI president insisted the regulations did not apply in his case.

“Guidelines by the Government of India is for financial assistance. We are financially self-sufficient. Even the state units these days have the required funds available with them for their activities. We have the resources to take care of our players,” a defiant Verma said.


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