|Suresh Kalmadi speaks with the media outside his New Dehli house in September last year [REUTERS]
India's sports minister has removed the top two organisers of last year's Commonwealth Games in New Delhi to enable an "unhindered" police probe into alleged corruption.
Ajay Maken said he took the decision to fire Games chief Suresh Kalmadi and Secretary General Lalit Bhanot on Monday "in the interest of impartial and unhindered investigations."
Both Kalmadi and Bhanot have been asked to hand over charges to Jarnail Singh, chief executive officer of the Organising Committee, who was given an extended tenure to allow the investigations to complete after last October's Games.
The Games were intended to be India's answer to China's near-flawless staging of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but in reality were a PR disaster, salvaged only after a last-minute scramble by the red-faced government.
"... The move comes in light of the ongoing investigation by the (federal investigating agency) Central Bureau of Investigation over allegations of corruption and irregularities in organisation and conduct of Commonwealth Games 2010," Maken's ministry said in a statement.
Kalmadi and Bhanot have already been grilled by the CBI in the probe, but both insist they are innocent and claim all major decisions were taken by the executive board of the organising committee.
Kalmadi, 66, said the government order will not force him to resign as president of the Indian Olympic Association, a post he has held since 1996.
"This order has nothing to do with the Indian Olympic Association," the Press Trust of India quoted Kalmadi as saying in the eastern city of Ranchi.
"I have always said I am ready for any inquiry. There is nothing much else I can say."
The Commonwealth Games have also been hit by claims of massive financial irregularities as the budget ballooned three times to an estimated $6 billion.
The national anti-corruption watchdog, the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), received complaints alleging up to $1.8 billion of Games money was misappropriated.
An initial report by the CVC into the Games confirmed the use of sub-standard construction materials in a host of building contracts and deliberate cost overruns.
Maken last week ordered the Games organisers to sort out differences with foreign contractors and sports bodies amid complaints and legal threats over millions of dollars in unpaid bills.
He set a 10-day deadline for government officials in the organising committee to settle all "legitimate" dues.
Some Australian and British suppliers of the October Delhi Games have said they had not been fully paid. Maken said the government would soon clear all "legitimate" dues.