Over the past one month, the UPA has been placed in quite a quandry, having been attacked from all sides on issues ranging from price rise to the IPL and phone tapping to a Cut Motion in the Parliament. The IPL has been quite a sensation this season (not that it has not been in others). But we love scoops and IPL has given us plenty of them. Sure corruption is not a new story. But this drama of corruption has two of the most saleble components of the Indian Media – cricket and cinema. Over the past five years, both have entwined with ease and TV news has been all about these two entities, with a dis-dash of politics in between. Besides, politicians meddle in cricket and movie stars in politics, making it all the more easy to dish it out to the audience as the perfect package.But the issue of corruption is not only huge but it is also getting murkier and confounding by every hour. But the whole affair seems to look like a clash of personalities.
There is a Shashi Tharoor who seems to be helping his ‘friend’ Sunanda Pushkar but gets away extolling the greatness of Kerala and India in defence in the Parliament. There is a Sharad Pawar, incidentally also the Minister of Agriculture, distributing the benefits of the IPL among his family as his daughter refutes it all, spelling out a big ‘NO’ on television. There is a Praful Patel whose daughter, the hospitality manager of the IPL, treats Air India as her personal fiefdom breaching aviation rules.There is the Maharashtra government excempting the league from entertainemnt tax calling it a sporting event. Since when did A.R.Rehman, Bipasha Basu and Shahid Kapoor start playing cricket is a matter to ponder about but eventually be ignored. It is to be noted here that the Delhi government sees things otherwise and has imposed tax on the sale of IPL tickets. Sheila Dixit was sensible enough to discern that a multi-crore revenue can go a long way in finding solutions to Delhi’s electricity shortage in this hot summer.
The giant of all, there is one Lalit Modi, who has his hand in every pie of the IPL. He has single-handedly displaced the other Modi (Narendra Modi’s SIT probe is quite forgotten now) from the national headlines. If he has borne the brickbrats of the BCCI, he was also recently eulogised by Farooq Abdullah for “taking cricket closer to the common man!” His kith and kin are allegedly holding stake in four or five teams and he himself stands suspended from the IPL, though he has given clear indications of revenge. The BCCI has come up with multiple charges of corruption against him. Besides, serious charges of match-fixing have also been raised against many teams. The word be-nami holdings is being propped at every second turn of the franchisees. The Prime Minister has said that IPL does not require a JPC, as demanded by the Opposition.
Instead the government is trying to sort out the matter by tapping telephones of sources of threat to national security (that is where the Supreme Courty supposedly allows a phone to be tapped in public interest). So you have the phones of Sharad Pawar, Nitish Kumar and Prakash Karat being tapped to avert a national disaster. Way back in the 1980s, the Congress was caught red-handed when it was revealed that the private communications and postal covers of the anti-Indira forces like those of the members of Opposition, some journalists, trade union leaders and a few bureaucrats being scrutinised by the then Indira Gandhi government by colluding with the Postal Department and the Police Department, which anyway had no option but to abide by the orders from above. Linemen were also used to tap the telephonic conversations of party leaders. The matter had created a lot of ruckus in the Parliament then. But the BJP then was just an year old and the Opposition was weak under the Iron whip of Mrs. G. But Mrs. Gandhi Senior was always known for her inherent insecurity and believed that everyone around her was scheming against her.30 years down the line, the Congress still seems unsure and insecure. Perhaps that is why it is tapping the phone of its own party leader. “The JPC is a very serious issue. This is not a fit case for a JPC” says the PM. The UPA has sailed through the cut motion with the help of Mayawati. But the penalty will be imposed on the nation as the money gulped in the Taj corridor and the truth about the garlands of currency notes will never come out. Be it the corruption in the IPL or the case of phone tapping, both are grave issues and cannot be allowed to die. An act of fraud in an entity worth arguably 10 billion cannot be a matter of concern of a private body, as long as it is full of public figures, playing with public money.
The BCCI has members from both the ruling combine and the opposition. The nation has a right to know the facts. The BCCI acting against Lalit Modi is a classic case of pot calling kettle black. Today Modi is the villain who did many things to bring disgrace to the IPL. But the very forces, which are feigning ignorance today, supped in with him and shared the cake in good times. Modi, a shrewd businessman that he is, will not allow himself to be thrown away like dirt. “Modi will be excused if his explanation is satisfactory” said BCCI chief Shashank Manohar. What is ‘satisfactory’ is anybody’s guess. The tragic irony of all this is I and you are helpless – before the media which leads us from one twist to another, before the bodies like the BCCI which have made cricket a family fiefdom and before the politicians, who can do anything and get away with some glib talk. Mr. Tharoor can tell you what I mean.
PS: By the time I finished writing this piece, the IPL controversy had by all menas died down. The players got busy with T20 and the media did not find any juice left to extract from the IPL. Mr. Pawar will be busy preparing for the chairmanship of the ICC by now.