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Tag Archives | ipl

Rein in the BCCI

What is an undemocratic institution doing representing the Republic of India?

The Shashi Tharoor vs. Lalit Modi fracas raises several questions on the turpitude, excesses and indiscretions rampant in the governance of an organization claiming to represent India to the outside world. Mr. Tharoor ultimately paid the price, and rightly so, for errors in judgment; however, the disproportionate pressure exerted by some sections of India’s news media on the government was both distasteful and inappropriate.

Insofar as Mr. Modi and the BCCI are concerned, the Tehelka exposé presents a grim picture of the muddled madness that is the business of cricket in India.  Commercial successes and unquestioned adoration of the game and its stars have essentially given the BCCI a carte blanche in how the organization conducts its affairs, even as it “represents” India on the world stage of cricket, which it largely dominates.  Greater transparency and accountability are, of course, important and must be demanded, but cannot be realistically expected in the absence of structural reform.

It is here that the fundamental questions of the role and composition of the BCCI need to be answered.  Structurally, the BCCI is incorporated as a private charitable society under the Tamil Nadu Registered Societies Act, 1975, but for almost all other intents and purposes, makes representation on behalf of the Government of India.  It uses government-owned stadiums (for which it pays a very nominal amount) and receives tax concessions as a charitable society promoting cricket in the country.  Powerful politicians such as Madhavrao Scindia and Sharad Pawar have held the position of President, BCCI, during their tenure as union cabinet ministers.  Operating as a charitable society, the BCCI is not required to disclose its balance sheet to the public.

The ambiguity, convenient as it may be for some,  must end — either the BCCI is government-owned and operated, or it is a private organization sanctioned to oversee cricket affairs in the country.  If it is a government-owned entity, it must fall under the ambit of the Right to Information Act (RTI) and the Comptroller Auditor General (CAG).

If it is a private organization like Cricket Australia (CA), or the English Cricket Board (ECB), and charged with overseeing cricket affairs in the country, then structural reform is necessary to remove any ambiguity — politicians holding public office have no business heading the organization.  Both CA and ECB are incorporated as companies limited by guarantee. If this ambiguity is to be removed, the BCCI must be restructured along similar lines, as provided for by the Companies Act, 1956 (Table C, Schedule 1).  Regardless of whether it is a government-owned entity or a private corporation, its books must be open for public scrutiny.

Additionally, what is a “charitable organization” doing running a $2.4 billion (2009) private cricket league? There is a conflict of interest between being a organization charged with governing India’s cricket affairs and running a multi-billion dollar competition of private clubs. Simply put, this cannot go on.  The IPL, if it is to continue, must be spun-off and incorporated like other sports leagues around the world.  Its private clubs can then enjoy the benefits of private enterprise as well as assume all its risks, including the prospect of bankruptcy. The IPL then would function as an association — much like the NFL or NHL in the U.S. — where each franchisee operates as an independent business unit, but functions under shared revenue generated from broadcasting, merchandising, ad sales, etc.

In 2006, the BCCI announced that it would constitute a Constitutional Reforms Committee to examine the structure and functioning of the BCCI. Was this ever operationalized? Where is the committee’s manifest? Were any reports published? What were its recommendations?  These questions can only be answered if Indian cricket fans and news media put them across to the BCCI and more importantly, to the government.  In the absence of this, the BCCI will continue to operate a plutocratic shadow-organization in the good name of the Republic of India and the IPL will continue to remain the Commonwealth’s largest annual sleaze-fest, again as a representative of India’s citizenry.

Now, will those media persons who feigned mock outrage at Shashi Tharoor, demand accountability from the BCCI and the Government of India?

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Pakistan's IPL omission

The mockery should have been avoided.

When the dust settles and the highly charged oratory duels subside, perhaps there will be space for better considered analysis on the recently concluded auction of the third installment of the Indian Premier League (IPL).  Pakistan, whose 11 cricketers led the shortlist for the third IPL auction — the most representation from any one nation — failed to obtain contracts from IPL franchises.

Arguments that the decision not to select Pakistani cricketers was based purely on business and on franchises’ unwillingness to dispense with additional money for Pakistani players’ security are simply disingenuous.  Cricketers from other nations — Australia, New Zealand, England and South Africa — receive the kind of security cover in India that can only be upgraded if the players are escorted in armored personnel carriers.  It is laughable that this theory finds credence.

But cricket is an interesting sport.  Unlike several other sports, international cricket — where cricketers represent their country and are contracted to a board that is at least quasi-governmental — is still more popular than league cricket.  In this respect, IPL’s cricketers are mostly selected based on their current status as international cricketers representing their country, their past status as international cricketers or their potential as future international cricketers.

As representatives of a quasi-governmental  board it is also appropriate that these international cricketers be subject to the diktats of the governments they represent.  South African cricket bore the force of government diktat when some countries refused to tour South Africa in the years of apartheid — likewise today, Zimbabwe is ostracized by some boards as an extension of their governments’ foreign policies towards the African country.

Therefore, if following the 26/11 attacks, it was the Indian government’s diktat not to commit to ties with the quasi-governmental Pakistan Cricket Board (whose chairman is still a direct appointee of the President of Pakistan and chief patron of the PCB — Asif Ali Zardari) this is also fair and consistent with India’s intention to not engage with Pakistan.

That being the case, why were Pakistani cricketers placed on the auction in the first place?  If the decision of the quasi-governmental BCCI was to maintain a suspension of ties with the PCB, then how did its subsidiary — the IPL — seemingly overrule this decision?

They say “with great power comes great responsibility”.  Yesterday’s abomination was concoction of a cricket board drunk with power, and a government  that thinks puerile jabs are to way to go when it is unable to force issues on the international political scene.

You don’t want Pakistan to play in India? Fine. You don’t want their cricketers to participate in the IPL? Fine. But this mockery could have been avoided. What was the Indian government trying to prove to Pakistan yesterday? What purpose did it serve? Why the pettiness?

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The Show Must Go On…

The Indian Premier League must be held as planned

The Indian Premier League (IPL) must be held as planned

Home Minister P. Chidambaram has urged that the second edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) be postponed, due to conflicts with the Indian general elections in April — May, 2009.  He argues that law enforcement forces in India will be unable to provide sufficient security cover during the games due to election commitments.  This blogger feels that the Home Minister is attempting to play it safe during election season and not be drawn into a scenario that provides a damning indictment of his party’s mismanagement of India’s internal security apparatus, should something, God forbid, happen during the event.  The Lahore terror attack on the Sri Lankan team gave Mr. Chidambaram a convenient out, before a security assessment on the matter was even conducted.   Outside the Subcontinent, there appears to be an attempt to paint India and Pakistan with the same broad brush, in terms of threat potential.  Various quarters in India have also been playing up this hyphenation.

Let’s get real.  Pakistan is a smoldering pot of jihadi fanaticism where the writ of government is undermined every hour of every day as a matter of common practice.   Extremist forces in Pakistan operate with impunity both inside and outside the federal framework.  The Pakistani establishment brought this upon itself and is now overwhelmed and unable to deal with this Frankenstein.  To compare this to the state of affairs in a country that is about to hold the world’s largest exercise in universal suffrage (the 15th such installment, since independence) is laughable.

So go ahead, Mr. Home Minister, do your security assessment.  Keep in mind, however, that your inability to provide security cover will be a condemnation of the security apparatus that you and your predecessor oversaw for five long years.   B. Raman believes that only a pragmatic security assessment should dictate whether the IPL should be allowed to go ahead as planned.  He suggests:

The national debate on this question is sought to be influenced more by commercial considerations arising from the profit-making urge of the corporate entities owning the participating teams and the money-making urge of different sections of the media and the advertising community than by security considerations…

The importance of ensuring the security of the life and property of the common citizens is sought to be subordinated to catering to the money-making urge of these sections with a vested interest in seeing that the IPL tournament goes ahead as scheduled.

I have nothing but the highest regard for Raman, but my beef with this article is the notion that just because this is a commercial venture (or a “money-making urge” as Raman puts it) that it should be brushed aside. No one in their right mind would assign anything but top priority to security during national elections, but private enterprise is an integral part of urban, middle class India, and has been for some time.  It isn’t a “money making urge”, like some sly, underhand, nefarious charade, it is the engine that is driving India’s economy.

If the Home Minister is telling me that he can’t protect private enterprise in the country, our law enforcement agencies, along with the Home Minister can just pack up and move along because they are of no use whatsoever.  Our law enforcement agencies have done little else in recent memory than raid rave parties in Mumbai and Bangalore. What message is Chidambaram trying to convey to India and to the rest of the world?  That we are incapable of holding a sports tournament and national elections at the same time in India?  Pragmatic Euphony echoes similar thoughts on The Indian National Interest:

[I]t should worry the nation that the Indian state seems incapable of holding a sporting event along with the general elections. The UPA government has done little to build these capabilities during its tenure and is intent on using Mumbai or Lahore as an excuse for its failure.

[T]he greater impact is in the signalling value of the decision taken.  It impacts the international standing of the country not only for the tourists, but more importantly, for financial, commercial and business interests, as the security advisories get revised in corporate headquarters and government departments the world over.

The show must go on.  Not for “national pride”, or for corporations’ “money-making urge”, but for the Indian government to show its people and countries outside that the fallacious hyphenation of India and Pakistan is absurd, and that it is capable of maintaining law and order it the country after the aberrations of the recent past.

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