Ritesh K Srivastava
Perhaps one of the most controversial of all UPA ministers, Shashi Tharoor burnt his fingers badly this time over his involvement in the IPL Kochi franchise ownership row and his much-reported clash with Lalit Modi.
The sordid IPL saga may have hopefully ended with Tharoor being asked to put in his papers by Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, but, it has also exposed the murkier side of the sport and the possible dirty deals at IPL auctions. The extensive coverage of the Modi-Tharoor spat by the national media, the allegations and counter-allegations made by the two sides attempting to score against each other, has all but brought to fore the untapped flow of illegal money in cricket, which has now become a huge moolah-gatherer.
Forcing Tharoor to quit from the Council of Ministers was probably the only option left with the Congress leadership to save them from the ire of the Opposition, which was already up in arms against the UPA government over price rise and the Naxal attack.
By this time, the Congress high command had probably assessed the huge embarrassment and damage which the IPL controversy has caused to the credibility of the ruling alliance. Nonetheless, the Congress government has also got a moral high ground over the Opposition by asking Tharoor to quit unconditionally.
Tharoor’s exit looked imminent ever since the Opposition disrupted the proceedings in Parliament after it resumed for its Budget Session following a brief recess. The entire Opposition was hell-bent on Tharoor’s ouster even after he made a statement in Lok Sabha in which he rejected all allegations against him as ‘baseless and politically motivated’.
What started as a war of words between Tharoor and Modi after the latter revealed crucial information about stakeholders in IPL’s Kochi franchise and the Minister’s till now unknown girlfriend, Sunanda Puskar, getting sweat equity of Rs 75 crore, it soon snowballed into a major political controversy.
The Opposition, which had already planned to bring a Cut Motion against the government over price rise and Dantewada massacre during Parliament’s Budget Session, got a well-timed opportunity. It was very natural for Tharoor to come under the Opposition’s firing range since he was a public servant and thus accountable to the people of India under parliamentary democracy.
The week-long political drama over the controversial IPL financial deal might have ended with Tharoor’s ouster, but it looks like it is just a tip of the iceberg, and there remains a lot which is yet to be probed and brought to fore.
The IPL saga has some bitter lessons for everyone. By this time, the evergreen and stylish MoS would have realised that if one crosses his limits or fails to remain within his brief, he is bound to pay a heavy price for it.
The minister, who is an avid on ‘Twitter’ and loves to express his views candidly on any topic, has also got a bitter taste of the complicated political system of the country. He has learnt that the system forbids one who goes ahead and milks the State, but never gets caught.
Sunanda Pushkar’s claim to (ill) fame was short-lived. At the height of the controversy, she jumped into the battleground to defend Tharoor but to no avail. The Dubai-based businesswoman gave up her stake in the IPL Kochi franchise hours after media reported that the sweat equity had been given to her in violation of Company Law.
The raids conducted by the Income Tax department in Mumbai, Vadodara, Bhavnagar, have further dealt a severe blow to Lalit Modi, the man who made the shorter version of cricket more popular than anything and converted IPL into a multi-billion dollar business.
Lalit Modi, whose career as IPL commissioner and an all powerful BCCI official is under clouds of uncertainty, has paid a heavy price for spitting venom against a minister of the ruling party and attacking its integrity and reputation.
With BCCI all set to clip Modi’s wings in the days to come, the I-T department has garnered enough evidence to book IPL commissioner under betting and money laundering charges in future.
Modi had been on the government radar for quite sometime. He will now face tough questions over how he amassed huge wealth within a span of just four years after a trail of failed ventures and defaults.
His lavish lifestyle, his fleet of Mercedes and BMW cars, his private jet and a yacht which he acquired in the past three-four years, the manner in which he conducted the IPL auctions, the share-holding patterns of the franchisees have all provided a strong base for the I-T sleuths to prepares a solid case against him.
Modi’s bad phase perhaps started in 2009, when he took on Union Home Minister P Chidambaram, who had asked him to postpone the IPL tournament in view of General Elections.
Besides, the I-T is also probing Modi’s direct or indirect involvement in a betting ring and fixing of IPL matches in the first two-IPL events.
With demands for a deeper probe into the murky IPL business and transparency calls from several quarters, a detailed enquiry into Modi’s alleged activities will certainly clear his links and the involvement of white-collar businessmen and politicians in secret ownerships and sweetheart deals in the Indian Premier League.
What can be said about the situation is that maybe, Lalit Modi had not realised that the money-churning monster he had raised would eventually devour him. Taking pride in calling a sports tournament interspersed with celebrities the only ‘recession proof venture’, Modi annoyed many in the process and his high-handedness only opened a muddy chapter of money laundering, betting, illegal and irregular financial dealings in the shorter version of cricket. What becomes of the BCCI and the IPL from here on; is for all to see and comment upon.