The IPL is now being played at the political arena! The murky financial dealings and its links point not to just IPL Commissioner Lalit Modi and his family but also to many political bigwigs and their relatives. As the IPL row gets bigger and bigger every day it is turning out to be a huge cause of embarrassment for the Prime Minister and a possible trump card for the opposition parties! The PM might have won the first round in the IPL row investigation by asking Shashi Tharoor to step down in the wake of his alleged mentor role in the Kochi IPL team but the issue is far from over! Now with more ministers and franchisees owned by business houses and film stars coming under the scrutiny by the IT department and more by the media the integrity of the Manmohan Singh-led government is being questioned! Will the government act tough and set its house in order? Will the government clean up the BCCI/IPL? Or will it buckle under pressure from its own quarters and sweep everything under the carpet to protect its political image and survival? And there’s more than one reason to find out which way the investigation is headed!
Reason 1: Today there were reports in the newspapers that the Prime Minister has asked the Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and the Home Minister P. Chidambaram to investigate the IPL row. Well, the PM had little option after he rejected the demand of the opposition for a joint parliamentary committee on the IPL row! This reported decision for an ‘in-party’ investigation into the IPL row will obviously enjoy the support of his own party and from his allies but could cast doubts on the integrity and the outcome of the investigation!
No doubt that Mr. Singh has upheld his clean image and public accountability after he asked Shashi Tharoor to step down after the opposition held him responsible for his alleged role in the Kochi IPL team and his pushing for a sweat equity for his friend Sunanda Pushkar. But unfortunately things didn’t end there! The IPL muck appears to run deep in to the political and sports system in this country. Now Sharad Pawar, the Union Agriculture Minister is alleged to have stakes through the 30% sweat equity for Sudanand Sule, his son-in-law in the Videocon-led bid for Pune IPL team which ultimately failed to bag the rights. Another NCP leader Praful Patel, the Civil Aviation Minister has been accused of partnering Adani for the Ahmedabad IPL team. The minister is also accused of forwarding valuations details to Shashi Tharoor through his daughter just a couple days before the IPL bid for two new teams were to taken place.
The links doesn’t stop there! The IPL broadcasting rights is held by Multi Screen Media where Sharad Pawar’s son-in-law has a stake! And the World Sports Group (WSG) India Head has admitted that Rs. 125 crore was received as payoff from MSM and this was distributed among all beneficiaries including ‘one’ with political links!
Praful Patel’s daughter Poorna is the hospitality manager in the IPL and is accused of sending the IPL valuation to her father’s office from where it was forwarded to Shashi Tharoor! Also, Poorna is accused of using her father’s political powers to cancel a scheduled Air India flight and use it as a chartered flight to carry the IPL players from Chandigarh to Chennai!
Now if these charges are proven, which again depends on the genuineness of the investigation team, it could mean the end of Pawar and Praful as ministers in the Manmohan Singh government. However, this may not happen as it could mean upsetting the political balance of the Congress given the fact that the Government needs the support of NCP at the center, particularly after the tussle between the allies in the government over the W omen’s Reservation Bill.
Reason 2: Lalit Modi, the man behind the entire controversy and who has been accused of using his links set up in tax havens to get stakes in at least 3 of the 8 IPL teams, is not a softie and is expected to fight hard and could expose many in the government as partners in the IPL scam. Consider this: Modi is alleged to have enough ‘business contacts’ in the IPL who are close relatives of politicians serving in the government. Exposing them could prove risky for the survival of the government. Moreover, the government has a lot to answer when it comes to explaining its lethargy in not pursuing the IT angle into the multi-crore for the past 2 years!
On the other hand BCCI has in-house conflicts and needs a clean up. Patuadi, one of the country’s most respected cricketers and now a member of the IPL Governing Council has spilled the beans when he said that the Council had not shown much interest in the business affairs of the IPL (Ironically, Saif Ali Khan, the Bollywood actor and son of Patuadi had unsuccessfully bid for the Pune IPL team!) Also, the Board has members who have stakes in the IPL teams which is a clear case of conflict of interest.
And on the conflict between Modi and the BCCI, the former is not interested in relinquishing the post of the IPL Chairman and Commissioner and has even gone to the extent of questioning the calling of the meeting by the BCCI Secretary Mr. Srinivasan who is the owner of the company India Cements that owns Chennai Super Kings. Patuadi, a member of the IPL Governing Council said that it is conflict of interest if board members have stakes in franchisees.
Now here’s another reason why the government is suspected not to come clean on the IPL row! It’s the huge money that the IPL rakes in! The BCCI created the IPL and now wants the rebel Modi to get out. The BCCI cannot afford to shut down the IPL and lose the huge money! But it is also a truth that the Board itself needs a clean up! Unfortunately sports is not separate from politics in this part of the world and the BCCI is controlled by the political bigwigs.
The IPL row has just begun! And it all depends on how the government will choose to conduct itself in in the investigation process which will go a long way in creating an impression on the common man about the integrity and truthfulness of this government!