By Venkatachari Jagannathan Chennai, Dec 15 : The Special Meeting of All India Chess Federation (AICF) General Body will be held as scheduled on Dec 22 at Gurugram in Haryana, said a senior official.
He also said the AICF President P.R. Venketrama Raja has put the players interest at risk by going ahead with the Urgent Meeting of General Body on Saturday.
“The Special Meeting of the AICF General Body will be held as scheduled. It was a meeting properly called. Further, there is no additional expenses involved for AICF. A meeting of AICF’s Central Council was also called on the same day. As per AICF rules the Central Council should meet four times in a year,” Bharat Singh Chauhan, Secretary told IANS.
“The President has risked the interests of the players by holding the Urgent Meeting of the General Body called by him on Saturday despite the Central government asking him to cancel the meeting or face actions like suspension/de-recognition,” Chauhan remarked.
Concurring with him was International Master Varugeese Koshy who told IANS: “It is important to have good relationship with the government. If the recognition to AICF is suspended or revoked by the government then it is the youngsters who play in the age group categories would be largely affected.”
“The young players will not be able to play for the nation in Asian and other international tournaments,” Koshy said.
Chauhan, Koshy and other chess players told IANS that the game survives in the country with the financial support given by the government.
Concerned at power struggle at the AICF, 12 Grand Masters (GM), nine International Masters (IM) and three Woman Grand Masters (WGM) and one Woman International Master (WIM) had sent a letter to the Secretary of Sports Ministry to intervene and put a rest to the current infighting in the Indian chess body.
In a letter to Raja on Friday, the Ministry of Youth and Sports Affairs had said: “It has been observed that a meeting has been called by the President on 14.12.2019 and by the Secretary on 22.12.2019 with almost the same agenda.”
“The meeting proposed to be convened by the President, AICF, on 14.12.2019 may be cancelled and meeting may be held on 22.12.2019 as scheduled by Secretary, AICF, so that Government observer is able to attend the meeting,” the letter noted.
“In case, the directions of the Ministry are not complied with and there is an attempt to suppress the complaints regarding financial irregularities, the Government will take a serious view in the matter, warranting action for suspension/de-recognition of the Federation by the Ministry,” it added.
On Saturday, the General Body meeting called by AICF President accepted the resignation of Joint Secretary Atanu Lahiri; decided to hold a similar meeting in Bhopal on Dec 28 in the presence of a Central government observer and also called for elections on Feb 10 at Chennai.
“We did not defy the Sports Ministry’s direction. The Sports Ministry had said the December 14 meeting may be cancelled. The ministry was not categorical in asking AICF to cancel the urgent general body meeting,” R.M. Dongre, FIDE Zone President 3.7, told IANS soon after the meeting.
“The meeting did not take up the matter relating to BCA as the Sports Ministry had wanted a Central government observer to be present at the meeting. Hence a separate meeting of the general body will be called on December 28 in Bhopal,” Dongre added.
The meeting also decided to set a four-member committee comprising Dongre, Bharat Singh Chauhan, AICF Secretary, Kishor M. Bandekar, AICF Treasurer and Kapil Saxena, Secretary, MP Chess Association, to assist Raja in managing the February 10 elections.
Terming the decisions taken at the Saturday meeting as illegal, Chauhan said: “The decision to hold elections for office bearers and calling another General Body meeting on Dec 28 at Bhopal were not in the Agenda at all.”
The agenda of the meeting called by Raja, who also heads the $1 billion turnover industrial conglomerate Ramco Group, was to discuss and decide on the show cause notice issued to Chauhan and appropriate resolution to be passed after deciding on the show cause notice; deliberate matters relating to Bengal Chess Association (BCA) and the resignation of AICF Joint Secretary Atanu Lahiri (who is also the Secretary of BCA).
“I am told there was an idea to remove him from the Secretary post. All members but four were against such a move. The three members of the election committee belong to the opposite faction,” he added.
Several chess players told IANS that holding a General Body meeting involves lot of cost for AICF and here three such meetings have been decided to be held in a matter of 15 days.
“It is players money (paid as membership/tournament and other fees) that is being used for power,” Koshy and several players told IANS.
“The General Body expenses are normally met out of AICF funds,” Chauhan said.
Chess players are of the view that time has come for AICF to take their concerns and interests into account, which was not done all these years.
Queried about the continued ban on several players for playing in independent tournaments Chauhan said: “As a chess player, I am against such ban. But I was bound by the decision of the Central Council. Many members in the Central Council had opposed changing the rules as directed by the Competition Commission of India (CCI). But I was firm in complying with CCI’s order.”
Adding further he said: “Times have changed a lot. I am for AICF having a representative of players. There is nothing wrong in AICF recognising a chess player body that would espouse the interests of chess players. I am for player representative with voting rights.”
“There is a wide gap between AICF and the chess players. This gap should be bridged,” he added.