Till now, it was only Indian hockey which was struggling to extricate itself from the rubble. Now, the officialdom also faces the same plight as elections to a unified Hockey India (HI) ran into further trouble with secretary general Mohammad Aslam Khan tendering his resignation to president AK Mattoo on Friday.

On a day when plenty of developments took place and the International Hockey Federation (FIH) gave the ad-hoc HI time till the first week of February to hold its elections, sports minister MS Gill also said the elections would have to be held in a “free and fair manner”. Once Aslam quit on Friday and gave a mouthful to some prominent HI officials, it was left to Mattoo to deal with FIH vicepresident Antonio von Ondarza, appointed by the FIH as observer for the polls.

First things first. Once Aslam realised that there was no way elections could be held on November 20, he sent in his resignation.

In his letter, Aslam said: “We have reiterated time and again to hold elections for the formation of the Hockey India executive within six months from the date of its formation on May 20. The time and term of office-bearers expires on November 20 and keeping in view recent developments and maintaining the principals of adhering to the principles of commitment, I would not like to continue.” While none of the other officials in Hockey India volunteered to quit, especially after failing to finish the task of having elections within six months, Aslam decide to become the martyr. He also slammed officials of other federations who were interfering in Hockey India matters.

“I am sure if the tables are turned and Hockey India administrators start interfering in other federations, it will not be taken well. This only caused serious delays in the smooth running of Hockey India and this is the cause of elections being delayed,” said Aslam.

Showing his political colours, Aslam ended his resignation letter by thanking MS Gill for “all the support.” He made particular mention of the way the sports ministry had funded injured goalkeeper Baljit Singh’s trip to the United States for treatment.

Earlier, Gill spoke to Mail Today and said elections could not be held right now as a lot of issues need to be sorted out.

“I have been at the helm of affairs in the Election Commission and know how it happens. And that is why we decided to appoint SK Mendiratta, a former Election Commission official, as observer. We want to ensure the elections are held in a fair and democratic manner,” said Gill.

In his view, with the affiliation of several state associations to HI still not complete, elections could not have been held now.

“When FIH president Leandro Negre came to New Delhi last year and met the Indian Olympic Association officials and me, it was decided that HI should be formed at the earliest. We agreed to the ad-hoc body, supported them and gave them temporary recognition. Our position remains the same as elections should be transparent, fair and acceptable to everyone,” said Gill.

Earlier this week, the sports ministry had written a detailed letter to Hockey India and raised several objections. The most important pertained to how HI had recognised 19 state units and four institutional members.

“Your letter does not indicate the process followed in the formation of the state units and whether they have obtained recognition from their state Olympic committees,” the letter said.

Other points raised by the ministry were: “Your (HI) letter also does not address the other conditions imposed by the government (i) Early submission of election schedule. (ii) Putting in place comprehensive election guidelines. (iii) Ensuring fair and transparent election process. (iv) Setting up a mechanism to hear and resolve grievance of state units of erstwhile hockey bodies.” That in effect means Hockey India has been no different from the defunct Indian Hockey Federation, which also ran the sport in the most unprofessional manner.

While the IHF, governed by KPS Gill, got the boot last summer after the Indian team failed to qualify for the Beijing Olympics, Hockey India has done no better.

In fact, their ploy of forcing mergers in some states is shocking.

Knowing well how important a state like Mumbai is, HI apparently gave recognition to Maharashtra and not Mumbai! “Everyone in India knows what Mumbai’s contribution has been to Indian hockey. Mumbai has provided Olympians, coaches and even top officials. So how could we not have got affiliation from HI?” thundered former India coach Joaquim Carvalho.

While hockey fans wonder whether India can regain its glory on the turf, the formation of Hockey India has become a bigger joke.