Thursday, 5 December 2019

The BCCI: A State Within A State

Updated: July 14, 2015 9:45 am

The craze to grab the posts in the BCCI increased many folds after 1999 when board signed a deal with TV channels and money started flooding. Even in their own wildest dream the then (and present) president Jagmohan Dalmiya and his friend (now bitter foe) Inderjit Bindra would have imagined that they would not get so much money (of course for the BCCI). These two were solely responsible to prepare ground for the Board to become the financial empire that it is today

The “Lalitgate” that seems to have rattled the Narendra Modi government at least on TV channels is an unending saga of intrigue, glamour, glitz and money laundering. Surprisingly, though its origins go back to UPA days, the present dispensation has to bear the brunt.

It is also very intriguing that the NDA is not able to effectively counter the charges levelled by the party under whose regime this all took place. It is also befalling that P.Chidambaram and Anand Sharma along with several former ministers like Ghulam Nabi Azad and Jairam Ramesh have been able to build up a case for which they should be explaining rather than raising question.

Chidambaram was Finance and Home Minister while Sharma was Commerce Minister when Lalit Modi left India. His baby the Indian Premier League (IPL) which is now considered to be the source of all evils engulfing cricket was not disbanded but on the other hand was encouraged with then the minister of state Rajiv Shukla taking over as IPL chie.

But before IPL is discussed it is necessary to have a look at the BCCI, the most powerful and cash rich sports organisation which has emerged as a state within a state. It takes all the benefits from the Government but is not responsible to anybody.

In May 2011, the then 47-year old Ajay Maken took over as Minister of state for Sports (Independent charge). Being young and energetic, he had grandiose plans to improve the state of the country’s sports and visualised Indian Sports Federations should be run in a professional manner.

18-07-2015It was his ‘burning’ desire to get rid of the well entrenched chieftains of National Sports Federations (NSFs) and also wanted to introduce a National Sports Development Bill to make the functioning of all the NSFs transparent but he made a cardinal mistake. In his enthusiasm he wanted the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) also to be brought under the ambit of this bill.

He either underestimated the power of the BCCI or over estimated his own clout. He forgets that BCCI was not an NSF like hockey, football or volleyball but was an empire in itself.

The BCCI,   formed in December 1928 as a society, registered under the Tamil Nadu Societies Registration Act., had by now   turned into a huge business and commercial conglomerate and its stake holders were people in authority wielding huge influence and power.

Any thought or idea to be controlled or monitored by the government was anathema to these very people, who were responsible to legislate and rule,Ajay Maken managed to browbeat majority of the NSFs but he hit the wall when confronting the BCCI.

In the cabinet meeting, chaired by the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, many senior ministers openly blasted the bill which dared taking on the BCCI.

Spearheaded by the senior most BCCI member in the cabinet, Farooq Abdullah (National Conference) minister after minister tore their own government’s bill to shreds. Sharad Pawar (National Congress Party) C.P.Joshi (Congress) threw their weight behind Dr. Abdullah. While minister of state Rajiv Shukla cheered them up from the ring side. Outside the arena, they received support from BJP stalwart like Arun Jaitley and others.

Encouraged by this opposition to the bill and egged on by the politicians the then BCCI chief N.Srinivasan also came out rubbishing the bill. “This is all about control (by the government),” Srinivasan said when asked about his views on the Sports Bill.

Asked why the BCCI was against the application of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, he said, “In principle, why RTI should apply to us, we don’t take any money from the government. There is no secret in our functioning.”

Not only bill was dropped, Ajay Maken was unceremoniously shifted from the Sports ministry to fancy but toothless ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation BCCI like other sports federations has always attracted politicians, who hardly knew the game but got carried away by its mass appeal and glamour.

There is no gain saying the fact that senior ministers and politicians like S.K.Wankhade (1980-82) .N.K.P.Salve (1982-85) Madhav Rao Scindia (1990-93) not only contributed in the development of the game but added prestige to the board.

One has to give credit to the BCCI that till 2013 it had 30 presidents while other NSFs were controlled run by few people in most unprofessional manners.

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The craze to grab the posts in the BCCI increased many folds after 1999 when board signed deal a with TV channels and money started flooding. Even in their own wildest dream the then (and present) president Jagmohan Dalmiya and his friend (now bitter foe) Inderjit Bindra would have imagined that they would get so much money (of course for the BCCI). These two were solely responsible to prepare ground for the Board to become the financial empire as it stands today.

Though, the BCCI always had internal rivalries and factions like any other sports federation but the real problem in it started from 2000 onwards. Suddenly, every powerful person with financial or political clout wanted to be associated with the BCCI and as more money poured more and more vested interests moved in. Ugly brawls, bitter rivalries, and buying the voters with expensive gifts before the election became the norm.

While it was all happening sensing that Cricket has become a gold mine in India business tycoon and owner of ZEE television Subash Goel moved and set up the Indian Cricket League (ICL) in 2007 .

ICL jolted the BCCI who could not brook any challenge to its hegemony and it created all sorts of hurdles for the ZEE sponsored league which   operated for two seasons before it was forced to shut down.

The closing of ICL saw the rise of new star Lalit Modi who envisaged the IPL. Young and brash Lalit always liked to be in the news .He was ambitious flashy, loved parties and was surrounded by the rich and glamorous people and was courted by the politicians. He hit the headline by presenting an expensive car to Yuvraj Singh for just hitting six sixes in an over in the first T-20 world cup, No question were asked; no objections were raised as to how he could afford such expensive gift, as Nation celebrated the ‘heroics’ of our stars in a format which BCCI had called a circus. From the very start, IPL built on the model of famed English Premier League, was superb hit. But unlike EPL, it was very secretive and non transparent. The government of the day never raised any objection about the way people involved in it, pumped in the money or received the money.

In the mad rush to own the teams, the franchises offered outrageous amount of money, but the income tax department or ED or other government agencies remained mute spectator to this naked display of ,what the JD (U) leader Sharad Yadav described, money laundering .

Once the IPL got going there was no going back for Lalit Modi and he emerged as the undisputed king of cricket. It was best of the times for Modi and people like him in India.

Bollywood stars lined up to him, politicians vied with each other to be on his side and big Industrial houses wanted to curry his favour to have their franchise teams in the IPL.

As IPL grew in stature, Lalit Modi acquired larger than life image and he started annoying the powers that be. His arrogance created several rivals who could not stand his growing clout. In other words Lalit started running   IPL as a parallel body to the

BCCI and soon came into conflicts with the government, politicians and powerful people and that turned out to be his undoing.

According to former sports editor of the Times of India V.Srivatsa it was not a bad idea to start the IPL “The Indian Premier League (IPL), conceived by business tycoon Lalit Modi, has done both good and bad in equal proportions for Indian cricket.

“Only Modi and a forward looking bureaucrat like Inderjit Bindra could have envisioned something like the IPL and executed it to bring crowds back to the stadiums”. “Modi was in a hurry and he did not realise that the board has mostly been run by tyrants with careerist officials as hangers-on. The state officials are only interested in constant inflow of subsidies in the name of TV rights, infrastructure facilities and anything that comes in their way.

“Eventually, the man who filled the coffers of the board with billions has been asked to explain the expenditure of a thousand-odd crores and he had to leave the country on the pretext of a threat to his life. His IPL and his escape also brought the Supreme Court into picture.” says Srivatsa, a keen observer of Indian cricket for last 45 years. Cricket historian Gulu Ezekiel however is more scathing in his views regarding

IPL “Cricket in India is an out-of-control monster and particularly since the spectacular monetary success of the IPL has become a victim of its own success.”

“This ‘monster’ wants to gobble up all other cricket boards of the world and eventually spread the IPL’s tentacles in such a manner that international cricket which has flourished for nearly 150 years will be a thing of the past.”

Gulu also known as a ‘treasure trove of Cricket’ feels: It is the power, money and publicity that cricket generates in India that has attracted the worst type of crony capitalism and greedy politicians, all jostling to jump on the bandwagon and exploit the game for their own selfish ends.

“The need of the hour is to weed out these parasites and bring in new faces with new ideas. Instead what we see in the BCCI is a revolving door policy with one set of power-hungry officials being replaced by another set of the same.” In 2013 IPL was hit with a massive spot fixing scandal which led to the arrest of three players including fast bowler S.Sreesanth.

“The bad thing about the IPL is, it has brought in the evils of offshore cricket that almost destroyed the game some two decades ago. With more and more money coming in, the players got greedy, more so those who felt they have been done in by what they feel an unfair auction system. These players are enticed by unscrupulous bookies.” opined Srivatsa.

There was so much uproar that then IPL Chairman Rajiv Shukla was forced to resign.   But true to the cliché that ‘public memory is very short’ everything was forgotten.

Interestingly, Rajiv Shukla is back at the helm of the IPL despite the fact that he is a Congress MP. He has maintained a steadied silence over the ragging controversy and neither his own party has asked him to expose the role of Lalit Modi nor BJP has questioned his comeback .

In between, N.Srinivasan embroiled in a controversy with IPL and the BCCI over issue of conflict of interest regarding the ownership of Chennai Super Kings (CSK) came up with a ‘master stroke’ which stunned his rivals. Srinivasan’s India cement owned the CSK but after the   Supreme Court cited a conflict of interest for Srinivasan, he transferred the franchise   to a subsidiary called Chennai Super Kings Limited for just Rs 5 lakh.

BCCI financial committee headed by former Union minister and congress MP Jyotiraditya Scindia slammed the valuation of Rs 5 lakh saying CSK could not be valued for so less when India Cements was paying a Rs 40 crore annual franchise fee to BCCI and said that the franchise has cheated the board.

Scindia has not raised this issue either in the Lok Sabha or neither in any public forum nor finance minister   Arun Jaitely has ordered any inquiry into this case. Rajiv Shukla has said nothing in public on this low valuation. As this was not enough, the International Cricket Council (ICC), led by N. Srinivasan, in a communication to BCCI chief Jagmohan Dalmiya, warned the latter about the alleged activities of its newly-elected secretary Anurag Thakur.

According to reports, Thakur was seen socialising with a suspected bookie whose name appears in the ICC’s anti-corruption and security unit (ACSU) database. The BCCI, despite acknowledging the letter from the ICC, did not respond to these allegations.

18-07-2015“The men controlling the board are happy to wink at the misdeeds of regional satraps who form their vote bank. For years the board has been vertically divided and a majority of elections are won or lost by a couple of votes controlled by government. The top leaders in the two major political parties, the Congress and the BJP, closed ranks when it came to the board, making them the most unlikely companions”, says Srivatsa.

In between came the news that back in 2013 Lalit Modi had informed the ICC that three cricketers-including two –playing in the IPL are involved. Though the ICC confirmed that it received the letter but neither the International body nor the BCCI took any action against the players.

In fact the BCCI secretary Anurag Thakur gave a clean chit to the players saying that the three players are international players and fall under the international jurisdiction. “There is no information on these players from ICC so far, so it is in a way a clean chit for them to play.”   It is as simple as that. Former sports editor of The Tribune Jaideep Ghosh is not amused at this clean chit “I don’t think there are any surprises, really, in the way the BCCI-ICC nexus has closed ranks about the three players named in Lalit Modi’s email. But it is fascinating definitely, since while the current BCCI power-bearers would love to see the end of N. Srinivasan, when it comes to corruption, match-fixing or any such dark deeds, they are still bedfellows.

“The ICC Anti-Corruption Unit was being handled by N. Srinivasan when the mail was sent. Did anyone expect that unit to do anything about three Chennai Super Kings players?

“At the same time, BCCI smartly delegated all responsibility to ICC, stating they were international players. But as far as my limited understanding goes, they were accused as IPL players, not for their international profiles.” Ghosh added Veteran journalist Ashish Shukla who has travelled with Team India abroad for over two decades and has closely observed the functioning of the BCCI   is disgusted. “Even comedy circus will defy such ingenuity. We have an ICC anti-corruption unit that says we followed `rules and regulations’ and forwarded the matter to the BCCI counterpart. The latter says it wasn’t clear if it concerned IPL and if it was international, then the three boys were outside the purview of BCCI anti-corruption unit. If they are neither international nor domestic, why the hell do we waste our time and money watching them in action? Made to choose between confession and stupidity, the two units have chosen to opt for the latter.”

According to Neeru Bhatia, deputy chief of bureau of the week (in Delhi): ‘The BCCI is a divided house-power is shared between former presidents N Sinivasan, Sharad Pawar and the group controlled by Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, the latter two are calling shots right now. It awaits the final word on its own future from the SC-appointed Lodha Panel which will tell how it should be restructured and run.” On the other hand, Lalit Modi is not giving up. Targeting Arun Jaitley and   Rajiv Shukla, he asked why he is being singled out and why are others not being charged. “Why other General council (GC) members including Jaitley and Shukla were not being charged and why are they not being called economic offenders. “On FEMA/ED don’t single me out. Seek the facts, don’t let perceptions cloud you.

“If I am an economic offender why are Rajiv Shukla and Arun Jaitley not economic offenders,” he wanted to know.


Cricket Corruption And Crorepatis


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Every politicians and businessmen like to be a part of BCCI; whichever party he or she represents it may be Congress, saffron, green or yellow parties; because there is absolute zilch accountability at cosy rainbow club! Indians bamboozled in this issue. Should the crusading PM intervene?

 In all the ups and downs of India’s post liberalisation gilded age, one sector of the nation’s economy has proved utterly recession proof: cricket.

A series of conjunctures have, over the last three decades, turned India to something more than just the largest field seeded with cricket by the British empire. The most populous by far of the world’s major cricket playing nations, India has become the sport’s financial powerhouse. Television broadcast rights, a gazebo league, advertising and endorsements, sports management firms, even betting and the odd bout of match-fixing: The white and black economies of cricket today all revolved around India.18-07-2015

At an extraordinary meeting last year of cricket’s governing body, the International Cricket Council, India’s representative claimed with only touch of exaggeration that the country deserve bigger share of the ICC’s profits as more than 80 per cent of revenues were generated by India. Think of America’s power at the United Nations, and you have some sense of India’s place in the cricket world.

Luck and chance may have had something to do with it, but the rise of Indian cricket was not an accident. For every person who would ascribe its meteoric ascent to demographic factors the appearance of satellite television in the early ’90s, the Indian diaspora, India’s own rise become a major power on the field of play itself there is another who would point to the role of the governing body of cricket as mastermind of this revolution.

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As many wits have remark, the Board of Control for Cricket in India is well named, the emphasis falls on the word ‘control’. The BCCI is a fascinating economic entity registered as non-profit society, run not by professional management but by a board of elected members, and with monopoly right over most cricket in India and all Indian cricket abroad, including, most important, television rights, the biggest source of cash in game.

In absolute term, the revenues and annual profits of the BCCI are smaller than those of hundreds of Indian corporations. (Last year, the BCCI’s surplus was 364 crore rupees, approximately $60 million.) But its business profile is equal to those of major Indian companies Reliance, Infosys, Tata. Many of those firms have extensive interests in the cricket economy, dealing in goods and technologies that need the emotion and the stars generated by cricket to sell them.

In fact, the personal perks, access to funds and discretionary powers that come with being a “voting member’ of the BCCI’s 30 member board, as well as the cachet of Indian cricket and the global profile of the group’s president, make being an officeholder in one of the world’s richest sporting bodies more desirable than almost any corporate post in India. Even if the job is unpaid, Most of the posts are honorary and the board only create its first paid position in 2006.

This mix of power, intrigue, patronage and glamour membership in an exclusive secret society controlling the more visible sporting drama and energy of bat and ball is utterly irresistible. And never more seductive than to the career politician, who sees in Indian cricket an enormous opportunity to leverage and redouble his own power.

So which prominent names in Indian politics have a foot planted in cricket administration? Well, let’s begin right at the top of the pyramid of power.

18-07-2015Last June 2014, the Gujarat Cricket Association called a special meeting to appoint a new president. The sitting president, Narendra Modi, had just resigned, having become prime minister. Who would replace Modi? The association elected as its president Amit Shah, Modi’s right-hand man in the national election and now the second-most powerful man in India. Shah is also head of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

Up in New Delhi, Arun Jaitley (Union finance minister) had brought an end to his 13-year-long presidency of the Delhi District Cricket Association at the end of 2013, with one eye on a future role in government. Had the BJP not won the national election, Jaitley would have in all likelihood made a run for BCCI president.

Former Union Minister Sharad Pawar was president of BCCI from 2005 to 2008. He was also president of the ICC. Congress leader Rajiv Shukla and Jyotiraditya Sindhiya, and Farooq Abdullah of the National Conference, after all, several Union ministers, chief ministers and ministers, members of Parliament from various political parties are literally bunch of merrymakers in BCCI. The BCCI is so powerful in world cricket that even dishonour on the job such as that experienced by a previous president, the powerful businessman N. Srinivasan only brings further gains. In 2013, Srinivasan was forced to step down after serious charges of corruption were levelled at his son-in-law, Gurunath Meiyappan. He failed to get reinstated, and he was told by the Supreme Court of India that he was killing the game of cricket. With the report of the inquiry against him still pending, but Srinivasan’s presidency is nothing short of scandalous.

Politicians are accountable to people, if not on a daily basis then at least once in five years. Most big businessmen are accountable to shareholders and investors. But once politicians and businessmen enter the hallowed halls of the BCCI, there is not an ounce of accountability. No wonder they are so entrenched.

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What will the future of the cricket world be like? That depends almost entirely on India and this is not something that will reassure any cricket fan on the uncontrollable Board of Control for Cricket in India. Since the BCCI and IPL cannot self correct, an external intervention is required. Who better than Mr. Modi who considers himself a cut above the regular politician? It probably isn’t a great idea for the government to run the BCCI many of the problems will simply carry over. However, the government could push legislation to first take it over and then reconstitute it as a corporate entity managed by professionals. Indian cricket should not be run by politicians or big businessmen. It should not even be run by cricketers who have no expertise in administration. It should be run by managers who know what it is to be accountable.

(Sanjay K Bissoyi)


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