The suspended and faction-ridden Archery Association of India will hope for a new beginning when it goes to polls in New Delhi on Saturday on the directions of the Delhi High Court.

Union Minister Arjun Munda and retired IAS officer BVP Rao will be up against each other for the post of the AAI president while Pramod Chandurkar and Maha Singh are the candidates for the secretary’s post.

The two groups led by Munda and Rao had in June last year elected themselves as presidents, in two separate elections held simultaneously in New Delhi and Chandigarh, leading to AAI’s suspension by the World Archery.

But as per the Delhi High Court order, the two will clash for the first time as the World Archery, who has sent an observer, will be keenly watching the proceedings. A total of 31 state associations are part of the AAI but only 26 states – each having a share of two votes – will take part in the polls. Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, and Jammu and Kashmir are not part of the electoral college.

There will be a total of 52 votes to elect the 19-member executive committee consisting of president, secretary general, senior vice-president, eight vice-presidents, seven joint-secretaries and one treasurer.

World Archery has indicated that the suspension of the AAI can be lifted “conditionally” after the election. With six months left for the Tokyo Olympics, the AAI elections assume significance as Indian archers have already secured a team quota (in men’s) and one individual quota in women’s section.

“I have to ensure that there’s no interference, will see if every voter is casting his vote independently or under any pressure from any group,” the World Archery observer Kazi Rajib Uddin Ahmed Chapol was quoted as saying PTI.

Chapol, who is the WA vice-president (Asia region), further said it’s a step in the right direction and the suspension is set to be lifted if the elections are free and fair. “Definitely, it’s a positive and much-awaited step for the Indian archery. There’s 100 per cent chance of the suspension to be lifted, should there be fair elections.”

Chapol, from Bangladesh, had earlier acted as a “mediator” to bring the two factions of the AAI together but the exercise went in vain as the factions refused to budge.

“I never wanted India to be suspended. During my last visit, I had called on the sports minister and met both the groups. I had asked them to form a joint panel but none of the groups reverted and I had to spend the whole day at the hotel, without doing anything,” he recalled.

“I had always requested World Archery to lift the suspension. The good thing is both the groups are committed to take archery forward and it’s because of that the Indian archery has survived,” he added.

Rao, on his part, said: “It’s good that elections are finally held by the Court. Whoever wins it’s fine, the archery should go forward, come what may.”

In AAI’s controversial elections held in December 2018, Rao was elected president to bring an end to the era of Vijay Kumar Malhotra, who served as AAI President for 40 years from 1973 to 2012, before being de-recognised by the government for not following the sports code.

But Rao’s stint lasted for less than five months after the Supreme Court set aside the constitution as amended by Delhi High Court-appointed Administrator SY Quraishi, leading to further uncertainty in Indian archery.

“It’s high time for Malhotra to realise that he should leave archery. He’s done enough. I hope it will be like that,” he said, referring to his opponent Munda who enjoys the support of former AAI president Malhotra. Munda was not available for a comment.