Responding to the IPL cricket scam Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh told media: “I only hope that politics and sports don’t get mixed up.” One does not know whether he said this to protect the reputation of sport or of politics. There is little to choose between the two now.
Consider some bald facts
about the current IPL cricket scam.
It is over two weeks since the scandal erupted. For all that period there has been a clamour for the resignation of the BCCI President Mr. N. Srinivasan. At the moment of writing he firmly sticks to his post. Why this clamour for his removal? The facts of the case reflect not only the sad state of cricket, of politics, but also of Indian society. What the scandal has exposed is not just the collapse of cricket, of the politicians dabbling in the sport, but of Indian democracy. After considering the conduct of those involved directly or indirectly with the sport one is led to wonder if Indians at all understand, let alone practice, democracy.
The BCCI President’s son-in-law was arrested by the police for involvement in IPL match fixing in collusion with bookies to cheat the public and rake in profit. But the President refused to resign. He said that he had personally committed no wrong. However he did claim that his son-in-law was not connected to the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) cricket team but was only an enthusiast. This statement was false. His son-in-law had been described publicly as an owner. If that was the case the President was lying. If that was not the case why did the President allow such falsehood go unchecked for so long?
There are eleven leading politicians who as presidents of state cricket boards are members of the BCCI Governing Council. Mr. Farooq Abdullah is one of them. He said: “Why should Srinivasan resign? So what if his son-in-law is involved? If my son-in-law is guilty does that mean I am guilty?” It was truly surprising that a leader with his background and experience should have displayed such crass ignorance about basic democratic norms.
The rest of the leaders did not acquit themselves much better. Mr. Rajiv Shukla is President of IPL. He belatedly spoke for himself and Mr. Arun Jaitley who uncharacteristically allowed him to be a common spokesman. Mr. Shukla said that both leaders advised Mr. Srinivasan to resign pending an investigation. He then met Mr. Srinivasan. After the meeting he changed his tune to say that Mr. Srinivasan should distance himself from the inquiry committee.
Mr. Jaitley himself all through spoke only in generalities. He did not question Mr. Shukla acting as his spokesman. Mr. Narendra Modi who heads the Gujarat Cricket Board and is a member of the Governing Council and is perceived as a future Prime Minister who will clean up corruption has not up to this point of time uttered a peep related to this entire controversy.
So much for cleaning up the nation’s corruption!
Mr. Sharad Pawar, former BCCI Chairman, who plainly aspires to replace Mr. Srinivasan, criticized Mr. Shukla and Mr. Jaitley for being too soft. Mr. Pawar said that if he had been in Mr. Srinivasan’s place he would “never have allowed such nonsense”.
The source of his self-confidence is mystifying given the fact that he as former President had allowed conflict of interest to occur within the Board by allowing Mr. Srinivasan, then the Treasurer, to owning the CSK cricket team by investing in its parent company, India Cements. Not only that, Indian test skipper Mr. MS Dhoni also developed a conflicts of interest by becoming Vice President of India Cements to own the CSK team.
Investigators have disclosed to media the code names of a dozen IPL cricketers used by betting bookies in their phone conversations. The net of those involved in the scam therefore may be much, much wider than anticipated. Mr. Dhoni and his team mates are all unusually silent regarding the scam.
The muted whispers from Board members for Mr. Srinivasan’s resignation finally gathered steam after Mr. Jyotiraditya Scindia belatedly broke the ice by demanding Mr. Srinivasan’s resignation on grounds of propriety. Although belated, it was at last a voice for sanity. Enunciation of this simple and basic democratic norm was long overdue.
Even TV commentators offered the most bizarre reasons for Mr. Srinivasan to quit. It was claimed he should quit because 60,000 cricket fans had booed him during a match. Was his resignation an issue of popularity or of probity?
It seems Indians have forgotten what democratic accountability entails.
In 1956 after two successive railway accidents Lal Bahadur Shastri resigned as Minister against the wishes of the government as well as of the opposition. Reluctantly Prime Minister Nehru accepted his resignation saying:
“It (the resignations) would set an example in constitutional propriety and not because Shastri was in any way responsible for the accident.”
Nehru was simply enunciating the well established principle of constructive responsibility which provides the foundation for democratic governance. Today in similar circumstances a Minister could well claim that he would not resign because he was not driving the railway engine!
Despite pressure from Board members Mr. Srinivasan did not relent. In an earlier meeting in Kolkata arranged by Mr. Jagmohan Dalmiya, Mr. Srinivasan had silenced the members by asserting that if he was to resign the whole Governing Council must resign. After that there was only humming and hawing. Eventually, after Mr. Scindia’s statement two Board members, Mr. Ajay Shirke the treasurer and Mr. Sanjay Jagdale the secretary, resigned in protest. The pressure for Mr. Srinivasan’s removal became formidable. Eventually Mr. Rajiv Shukla himself resigned as the IPL Chairman. That seemed to be the final desperate move to persuade Mr. Srinivasan to resign. At moment of writing it is hoped that his resignation is imminent. His resignation will relieve all those affected by the scam because it would signify closure of the crisis. That is why Mr. Srinivasan’s resignation is of such crucial importance. That is why many hidden and powerful interests are also exerting pressure to achieve closure of the crisis.
Closure is necessary to avoid full exposure. Full exposure of the scam might reveal an astounding network of vested interests involved in the IPL scam. How many silent vested interests are interested in IPL cricket?
Consider this random example.
GMR firm wrested the contract to develop the Delhi International Airport from Mr. Anil Ambani after it had been granted to him as a single bidder. GMR is headquartered in Andhra and its owner Mr. GM Rao had excellent equation with late Chief Minister Rajshekhar Reddy, a hot favourite of Mrs. Sonia Gandhi. Clearly GMR acquisition of the Delhi Airport contract suggested strong political clout. Mr. Arvind Kejriwal has claimed close links between GMR and Mr. Robert Vadra. After his claim Income Tax officials searched GMR offices in Andhra. GMR also owns the IPL Delhi Daredevils cricket team. What, if any, interest does GMR have in the ongoing IPL scam? How many other silent vested interests indirectly connected to the cricket scam exist? Clearly a full probe to clean the mess is imperative. Mr. Srinivasan's resignation is an irrelevant issue.
IPL cricket is big money. Big money attracts corrupt elements like flies to honey. Very likely the honourable individuals involved with BCCI have very honourable reasons to justify their conduct. But in public perception they have dragged their feet because they are vulnerable to threat of exposure by Mr. Srinivasan. For their sake and for the sake of cleaning up dangerous corruption there should be a credible and full fledged investigation. Official investigators have claimed to media that Dawood Ibrahim is the mastermind behind the betting mafia. They claim that a good part of the funds generated by match fixing are used to fund terrorism. If true, beyond corruption it becomes a crisis of national security.