The Supreme Court needs to step in and order an independent inquiry into the whole IPL scandal, conflicts of interest between office-holders of the BCCI, team-owners of the IPL and even members and captain of the Indian team, says KC Singh
Cricket for those of us born just around Indian independence is a memory of days spent glued to the radio in the 1960s as school children. Today's specialists on television, like Chandu Borde, were heroes battling for Indian honour, whose exploits we imagined from merely the heard word. It was a simpler world sans bookies and fixers.
My first test match I only saw in 1973, when we in a batch of Indian Police Service probationers proceeded from Mount Abu, Rajasthan, where our training academy then was, to the then Bombay. At the Brabourne stadium a test match was on but we had no tickets. That was no hassle, as we were accompanied by a DSP of the Maharashtra cadre, who muscled his way in, accompanied by about 10 of us -- the first breach of law taught to young officers. I still recall the late Nawab Pataudi in the field, fast as lightening.
In 1983 I joined Rashtrapati Bhavan as deputy secretary, on deputation from the ministry of external affairs. My boss then was IS Bindra, joint secretary to the President. In the following two years began my first interaction with the world of cricket politics, as Bindra was not only the president of the Punjab Cricket Association but an established force in the Board of Control for Cricket in India. I would bump into Jagmohan Dalmiya in Bindra’s room, submissive and ever the courtier to the then powerful Bindra. The two later went on to liberate Indian cricket from the stranglehold of Doordarshan.
They managed this after a protracted court battle, but in the process released the demon that now plagues the sport. Their relationship split over not so much who would be the king of Indian cricket, as they could take turns there, but who would go on to the International Cricket Council. Dalmiya realised that unless he tied down Bindra, because of his poor English and slippery ways the latter would out-run him. Bindra's political clout in Delhi diminished when he reverted to his state cadre in 1985 and the relationship between his former boss, President Zail Singh, and Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi collapsed.
But the plane was tilting away from old board politics to one in which money, lucrative contracts and simple hand-outs gave the management a tremendous edge over a challenger. Politicians started getting drawn to the world of cricket for its money, mass appeal and sheer star power. Bindra is today convinced that a Central Bureau of Investigation inquiry into the construction of the Mahauli stadium, under Bindra’s supervision, was at the behest of Dalmiya.
In the meanwhile Dalmiya, having got the new wealth of the BCCI to control, became too powerful for Bindra’s old board politics to eject. Thus began Bindra’s alliance with Sharad Pawar, who brought political power, muscle and money. Arun Jaitley’s ascent in the cricket world was rapid after the National Democratic Alliance came to power in 1998 and Dalmiya had found a new patron in Delhi. These cracks still persist, but may not have resurfaced had it not been for the Indian Premier League imbroglio.
The IPL is an idea stolen from Subash Chandra's Kapil Dev-driven club league that the BCCI killed in its infancy. It was, however, Lalit Modi, a Bindra acolyte, who brought all disparate streams of professional cricket together to create the IPL. Again, it was something that Sheikh Bukhatir of Sharjah had perfected in the 1980s -- a combination of Bollywood, masala cricket and betting. Match-fixing charges always hovered over the matches there, though they were conveniently buried.
That someone with the coloured past of Lalit Modi would be able to manage with proper oversight, should have been asked before handing him the gold mine. His exit, the resignation of Shashi Tharoor, sudden changes of ownerships etc were warning signals that much was not right below the surface. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh now pronounces that politics and sport should be separate. Why then did he allow Rajiv Shukla, a minister in his council, to be merrily a commissioner for the IPL? Shukla has now resigned from that position, or as some allege actually his term had run out, but should he not pay a price for malfeasance by being axed from the council?
The drama in the BCCI board meeting at Chennai on Sunday had the old alignments playing out without concern what impact their actions have on cricket or how the cricket fans view the game. As I tweeted a few days ago, while Srinivasan has the board hostage, it is the Nationalist Congress Party-controlled police in Maharashtra that has his son-in-law. Thus it can be safely surmised that the contest for dominance will move outside the board.
A number of issues arise from the fracas per se and what Bindra shared after the meeting. First, who devised the composition of the inquiry committee? According to Bindra, when he queried Srinivasan, he was told it was on the suggestion of the latter’s personal lawyer, who actually had accompanied his son-in-law to Mumbai. Second, if the secretary and the treasurer continue to persist with their resignation, then who appoints their successors? Again, according to Bindra, Dalmiya will decide, who has no authority as his position has no board sanction or even provision for it in their constitution, and Srinivasan would endorse, despite having “stepped aside”. An interesting way to retain control and yet be at an arm’s length away.
It is clear that the Dalmiya, Jaitley (which includes BJP worthies like Chief Minister Narendra Modi and upstart Anurag Thakur)and Srinivasan have clung together to fight off an attempt by the Pawar camp to seize control under the guise of clean-up. The surprising thing is the position of Rajiv Shukla. Had the Congress forced him to resign at once from both the IPL and the council of ministers they would have smoked out the likes of Messrs Modi and Jaitley who are shouting about probity and accountability from rooftops every hour and yet are complicit in this cover-up. Belatedly, the Congress’s loose cannon Digvijaya Singh has begun firing, but it too little too late.
What then can be done to break this circle of deceit and self-preservation? Indian cricket needs not just new faces with old habits but a thorough purging and new norms for holding posts at the state and national levels. Undoubtedly, the Supreme Court needs to step in and order an independent inquiry into the whole IPL scandal, conflicts of interest between office-holders of the BCCI, team-owners of the IPL and even members and captain of the Indian team.
The sleazy mutual dependencies are allowing one man like Srinivasan to hold the board hostage, thus literally insulting the intelligence of the cricket fan and be contemptuous of the superior courts and the government. It is still, though the moment is fast passing, not too late for Rahul Gandhi to show that his tolerance for his party members playing games at public cost is over. That should put all other political parties on notice, particularly the BJP.
KC Singh is a retired Indian diplomat