Baby & the bathwater

Mr Srinivasan will eventually go. Whether he drags everyone down with him or not is debatable, but it’s certain that his departure will open a can of worms.

It is not surprising that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and the Indian Premier League (IPL) are in very serious trouble because of the spot-fixing scandal.

Unlike the time when first IPL founder Lalit Modi was slapped with 22 charges of impropriety and senior politicians from all political parties watched helplessly, this time around the government swung into action quickly — sports minister Jitendra Singh issued a tough statement and law minister Kapil Sibal has decided to deal with the situation firmly.
The Delhi Police commissioner, Neeraj Kumar, and his teams have done a commendable job. Teams have been dispatched to Chennai, Hyderabad and Kolkata to keep a close watch on some players and bookies for more evidence and, perhaps, a major breakthrough that will lead to more arrests.
It’s clear that the BCCI chief, N. Srinivasan, took the public for a royal ride. Ordering an internal BCCI inquiry into spot-fixing and betting is a sham. Conflict of interest is apparent just from the fact that the BCCI president owns an IPL franchise, Chennai Super Kings. Also, it’s been three years and the inquiry into Lalit Modi’s alleged transgressions is not yet complete. The same fate awaits this inquiry.
The arrest of Vindoo Dara Singh and Gurunath Meiyappan, Mr Srinivasan’s son-in-law, has lead to a huge uproar and demand for Mr Srinivasan to step down. His adamant refusal to resign is typical of someone not used to any form of accountability or control. While some politicians and cricketers have come out in support of
Mr Srinivasan, the fact is that he is an isolated man. The way he was jeered and booed by the public during the post-match presentation ceremony of IPL finals at Eden Gardens was reminiscent of the way the public reacted to Suresh Kalmadi during the Commonwealth Games.
Mr Srinivasan’s statements blaming the media for hounding him is a serious error of judgment as the media is only doing its job and is not subservient to him like the organisation he heads.
The noose will tighten and Mr Srinivasan will eventually go. Whether he drags everyone down with him or not is debatable, but what’s certain is that his departure will open a can of worms. Those within the BCCI who are silent today will open their mouth once Mr Srinivasan is out. That will be a good thing — it may free the game from the betting mafia.
Some months ago, I heard Altamas Kabir, the Chief Justice of India, saying that the first principal of criminal law is that a person is innocent until proven guilty. I think we should reserve our judgment on the accused players and the future of IPL till the police make some more disclosures. After all, criminal investigations don’t move at the speed with which news channels flash “Breaking News”.
There is no doubt that the arrested bookies and players will provide crucial leads, but whatever statement they make should be verified as they can implicate everyone under the sun. Their lawyers would have briefed them about what to say and what not to say. We have a long road ahead of us. The game of cricket will go on as it must, but things have changed and those living in denial will be hurt severely.
On May 25 came the shattering news of the Maoist attack. Hundreds of Maoist guerrillas ambushed a convoy of Congress leaders in Chhattisgarh, killing nearly 28 people, including state Congress chief Nand Kumar Patel, his son Dinesh and former state home minister Mahendra Karma. My friend V.C. Shukla, who received three gunshot wounds, was saved and airlifted to Delhi.
The Maoist attack was baffling and a matter of serious concern. I fail to understand how almost 300 armed Maoists could assemble in one area and their presence went undetected. While the option of a peaceful settlement cannot be eliminated completely, incidents of this nature cannot be allowed to take place. A million emotions surface and not all are peaceful, but in the end reason has to prevail. It is also time to understand that we are fighting a “war” and have to use suitable weapons and technology.
It is heartening to see that the entire political fraternity is united and has reacted in one solid voice. Congress president Sonia Gandhi looks shattered and grief-stricken but determined. Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi left for the violence-hit area immediately and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Mrs Gandhi also met the victims.
Home minister Sushilkumar Shinde, with the concurrence of Chhattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh, has ordered a probe by the National Investigating Agency (NIA). Soon details will emerge on the security issue and how the top Congress leadership in the state was targeted and systematically liquidated.
It’s already an emotive issue, and will continue to haunt us as more and more details of the brutal behaviour of the Maoists emerge. The Maoists and all their sympathisers will have to pay a heavy price for this dastardly, brutal crime.
It was an act of great courage for the Congress leaders to hold a huge public meeting of 20,000 people in the interiors of Naxalite-infested Bastar region. I salute the leaders who lost their lives and the personal security officers who, though outnumbered, did the security services proud. They fired close to a hundred rounds and fought till the last bullet.

The writer is a former Union minister

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