In a slugfest that could be embarrassing for the nation, Union Sports Minister Ajay Maken and Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president Suresh Kalmadi traded high-decibel verbal volleys on Saturday about the scam-tainted Pune MP’s sojourn to the London Olympics.The minister maintained that “someone charge-sheeted on corruption charges should not got for the Olympics,” Kalmadi insisted that no charge had been proven against him.But Maken held his ground. “I think it is inappropriate for me to comment on someone who is facing corruption charges in a court of law and has been suspended by the Congress party,” Maken said in a telecom with Mail Today. Special CBI judge Talwant Singh had on Friday allowed Kalmadi to visit London for the Olympics as a council member of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).Asked how Kalmadi’s presence would harm the Indian contingent in London, Maken said emphatically: “I am convinced that the presence of Kalmadi at the London Olympics will not be good for the morale of Indian athletes. After all, we have a strong contingent going this time. It has trained hard and has good chances of winning medals.”Kalmadi countered by saying he could not understand what the fuss was all about. “I honestly feel it’s a needless controversy,”he said from Pune. “I strongly feel this vilification campaign by Maken is meant to cause a split between officials and Indian athletes participating in the Olympics.”The battle of egos between Kalmadi and Maken dates back to the latter’s appointment as sports minister last year after financial irregularities during the conduct of the Commonwealth Games came to light.advertisementM. S. Gill’s ouster had paved the way for Maken and at the very start of his tenure, the sports minister made his intentions clear, targeting Kalmadi and his close aides who had been holding top positions in various sports bodies for decades.Six months after being granted bail, Kalmadi resumed his tirade against Maken, who often attracted headlines for his criticism of the top bosses of Indian sports bodies.Maken had claimed he would ensure Kalmadi is not part of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) delegation for the Olympics. A miffed Kalmadi on Saturday said that by making such statements, Maken was infringing on the autonomy of the IOA and called for the sports minister’s removal.”I was quite shocked and dismayed to read Ajay Maken’s reaction to the court’s decision to grant me permission to visit London for the forthcoming Olympic Games,” Kalmadi said. “In view of Maken going against the court decision, which is quite unbecoming of a sports minister, I request our Prime Minister to ask for Maken’s resignation for making such comments and statements.”Besides being an IAAF council member, Kalmadi is also the president of the Asian Athletics Association and claims that he will be in London to attend an IAAF meeting, which coincides with the Olympics. “Maken threatening the IOA that he would try to ensure I was not part of the Indian delegation shows lack of knowledge about the functioning of autonomous sports bodies,” Kalmadi said. “I don’t need any support from the sports ministry,”he added.With pressure mounting after his release on bail, Kalmadi was forced to distance himself from IOA activities with Vijay Kumar Malhotra taking over the reins. The IOA has made it clear he will not be a part of its delegation in London.”Suresh Kalmadi is not a member of the IOA delegation. The Indian contingent was finalised a month back and Mr Kalmadi does not figure in it,” Malhotra, who’s the acting IOA president, said.Malhotra also chose the opportunity to slam Maken and said the sports ministry should have first verified whether Kalmadi was ever included among the IOA delegates.”Kalmadi never asked IOA to make him a part of its delegation,”Malhotra said. “The ministry should have verified the facts from the IOA before writing the letter. The sports ministry’s letter asking the IOA not to provide any assistance or help to Kalmadi holds no ground as he is not going to London as part of the Indian contingent.”News of Kalmadi’s possible presence at the Olympics, meanwhile, met with mixed reactions. Athletics coach Bahadur Singh, whose acolytes were at the podium during the Delhi Commonwealth Games and Guangzhou Asian Games, did not see any reason for the ruckus.Bahadur said Kalmadi’s presence would encourage the Indian athletes and pointed that no charges have been proven so far against him.”Why will athletes be discouraged by Kalmadi’s presence in London?” Bahadur continued. “Rather it will encourage them if he meets them. He has been associated with Indian athletics for the last 15-20 years. He is well known in international athletics as he is an IAAF council member,”he said and added: “He is not guilty till the court gives its verdict.”advertisementShiny Wilson, who won the 800m gold at the 1985 Asian Championships, also backed Kalmadi. “It’s good for Indian sports that he (Kalmadi) is going to London,” Shiny said. “He has done a lot of good for Indian sports, especially athletics. He has helped athletics grow in the country.”The last has not been heard on the verbal duels between Kalmadi and Maken as the minister is also going to be present in London. Sources said the Congress may soon give the party line on the controversy. Till then, the verbal jousting may just continue.