It’s just about a week since Pawan Kumar Bansal resigned as Rail Minister under the cloud of bribery charges involving his nephew and a few more people. Like I said in my previous post Bansal was the unfortunate victim of the phone-tapping when the CBI’s target seemed to Mahesh Kumar. So the CBI director now says there is no evidence of any wrong-doing against Bansal. PKB must be wondering now why he was forced to resign. Signs are the investigation against him will go cold and he may not be prosecuted for anything at all. The CBI after turning ‘Namak Haraam’ for a week will now go back to being a ‘Caged parrot’ as the SC called it. Someone doesn’t seem to like that name at all. It is therefore reasonable to believe that nobody would be happier than the Congress party that the IPL spot-fixing scandal broke yesterday and served as a great distraction from everything else.
It must have come as a big blow for our media that the IPL betting scam broke. HeadlinesToday had just about started a campaign on Varun Gandhi with another sting in partnership with Tehelka. It’s survival. And suddenly there’s also a spate of ‘Bharat Nirman’ and NREGA ads on all channels. Elections are around the corner, the boom-time has started. Now they have come up with a new sting. This one is dedicated to Varun Gandhi and his so-called hate speech. HT aired it on May 15 and again in the morning of May 16. But sometimes worse news disturbs bad news. Out of the blue there was a case of spot-fixing in an IPL match with the arrest of S. Sreesanth and 2 more players of the Rajasthan Royal team. It now seems the entire IPL betting scam runs into 40,000 Crores as reported by HT themselves.
The Delhi police couldn’t have asked for such a good PR break. 3 players and 11 bookies were arrested and more are likely. There was worse news. The betting scam is reported to be connected to the Dawood gang with the masters controlling the game in India. There has always been something funny and suspicious about IPL; the format, the auction, strange appearance and disappearance of teams. The founding commissioner of the tournament, Lalit Modi, is himself wanted to for questioning by IT and ED and he is happily residing in England and avoiding questioning in India. It is possible that he is being politically hounded for exposing Shashi Tharoor and his “sweat deal” of 70 crores. In a country with so much poverty the extreme flaunting of money in the IPL does leave a bad taste with many viewers. I had written earlier that IPL is nothing more than toys for grown-ups with most teams being owned by wives, sons or daughters of rich families.
The news media completed the circus by each channel carrying 3-4 programmes everyday on the IPL with farcical analysis, reports and debates. Mostly mindless nonsense! What should constitute no more than a 5-minute report after a match or in the evening was turned into half hour programmes every morning, afternoon and night. While they now scream about the betting scam they are equally responsible for promoting the circus. I am sure such promotions were not free of cost. Times Now immediately started calling the latest scam “cheating a billion people”. Who makes these people believe that all the billion+ people in the country are crazy about the game? Cricket may be the most popular game but to suggest the entire population is crazy about it or follows IPL closely is as disingenuous as claiming Sachin always carried the burden of a billion people. Such exaggeration is what leads to more bad behaviour and crimes in the game.
The BCCI president himself has a lot to answer for. He’s the president, owns an IPL team and his conflict of interest doesn’t seem to stop anywhere. On the other front why shouldn’t we believe that the whole IPL itself is somewhat like a Bollywood industry organisation where black money is the artery of the business? Underworld money is known to flow in Bollywood and why shouldn’t it be possible for Hawala transactions in IPL too. And remember, this BCCI is still a “Charitable organisation” and exempted from income tax. Since February 2013 the BCCI is still dealing with 2300 crore IT demand for its commercial activities.The first step in bringing some accountability to the BCCI would be to change its status from a Charitable to a Commercial organisation. This is especially necessary considering so many politicians and big businessmen are managing the organisation. On what basis does such a filthy-rich organisation deserve monetary exemptions?
Former Sports Minister Ajay Maken did make efforts to rein in the BCCI and even bring it under RTI but the politicians would have nothing of it. The richer an organisation is, the more corrupt it tends to become in India is what it seems. The richer the players get they seem to be more tempted to commit crimes. It is also possible that once players are targeted by the underworld it may not be easy to get out of the trap as there may be other threats that we may not even come to know. And why is IPL such a farce? Simply because with about 9-10 teams playing how can a tournament possibly drag on for 2 months? Even the Olympics and World Cup football don’t go beyond a month with so many participants. All this in the height of Indian summers? And then with cheergirls and comic “strategic time-outs” (which are meant to merely squeeze in 5 more minutes of commercials) the game has been turned into a mere money-making circus. Some of the players have been reported to have attended rave parties in the past. Some have been accused of molestation of women. How much more crime will it take for the BCCI to alter this farce?
After the beating they have taken in the last few months the Delhi police can finally claim some PR success with the arrests and disclosures. They may have done a good job but all the evidence may not stand up in a court. There are claims of signals being agreed upon but then such signals weren’t given at all. So it’s a tangle that won’t be easy to test in a court. Regardless of whether the players are guilty or not there is a good reason to tone down the IPL. The tournament must be turned into a crisp 15-day tournament and nothing more than that. Some argue that this 2-month farce is also draining our top players. It’s not just the CBI that has become a “caged parrot”. Some of our cricketers too have become so and unable to speak of the misdeeds of the BCCI which subjects them to punishing schedules. The IPL is currently a farce that needs to be shortened and toned down substantially. If not, expect bigger disasters.