Boardroom politics

Written by Shamik Chakrabarty | Shamik Chakrabarty | Updated: Jun 23 2013, 10:19am hrs
In the aftermath of the IPL spot-fixing and betting scandals, backroom manoeuvrings have resurfaced in the power corridors of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). It had been lying dormant for the past few years since Narayanaswami Srinivasan took charge of the affairs and became all powerful. Srinivasan has always been a dictator. But most of the board members looked at him as a benevolent one, because they were gaining sufficiently from his presence. Remote centres got world-class stadiums and facilities. All the state associations and affiliated units became cash-rich. Players, both past and present, were earning handsomely.

This is because Srinivasans board showed efficiency in channelising the multi-million dollars gained from the IPL properly. Srinivasan looked after the members very well, so his authority was unquestioned. Now, the IPL has brought about his downfall. His son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappans alleged involvement in illegal betting was too controversial an issue to be brushed aside. Srinivasan had to step aside.

At this moment of crisis, some of his old allies have become his foes. Suddenly there appears to be a strong faction within the board that wants Srinivasan out. Union minister and former BCCI president Sharad Pawar is said to be leading this group.

Its a case of fishing in troubled waters. Pawar was the BCCI president when the board constitution was tweaked to allow Srinivasan own an IPL franchise. Lalit Modi, then IPL chairman, former BCCI president IS Bindraall had given their consent. Modi, who hasnt lost his tweeting habit even in exile, now describes Srinivasan as a monster. Bindra, who has lost significance in the board, is regularly tearing apart the present administration in his blogs.

The BCCI is a $1-billion industry. Naturally, everyone wants a bite of the cherry. Those who are out of the loop seem desperate to come back. They see the present situation as their biggest opportunity and want Pawar to lead the charge.

The Maratha strongman has indicated that he is mulling a return. It would be interesting to see if he contests the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) presidential election in July. A return to the MCA will be the first step. The next one will be the BCCI annual general meeting (AGM) scheduled in September. Time will tell if Pawar indeed is keen enough to throw his hat into the ring.

The situation has forced Srinivasan to compromise. He no longer remains the sole authority but still maintains a significant influence over a large section of the board officials. Jagmohan Dalmiya is the figurehead who appears to be working in tandem with Srinivasan and Arun Jaitley.

The latter has a very important matter of guiding his party in the next general elections. This is the reason why he is reluctant to take charge of the BCCI affairs this year. He is expected to be in the hot seat next year, when the political scores will be settled. The BCCI-appointed two-member commission of Justice Jayaram Chouta and Justice R Balasubramanian is not working on a time frame and if it doesnt submit its probe report on Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals withing three months, then Srinivasan will not get the chance to seek a one-year extension as the board president. The best alternative for him will be to have Dalmiya working as the interim head for one more year. With Modi & Co licking their lips and have a few personal scores to settle, Srinivasan simply cant allow the table to turn.

This is also a perfect opportunity for Dalmiya to retire gracefully. In 2006, when Pawar, Srinivasan, Modi and Bindra were hand in glove and the Bengal administrator was ousted from the board, it looked impossible that one day he will be asked to lead the organisation again. He has been given the responsibility in Indian crickets darkest hour and should gracefully walk into a golden sunset after restoring its credibility.

Nothing is permanent in sports and politics. Also, both thrive on cronyism. Srinivasans company bought Chennai Super Kings, appointed then chairman of selectors Kris Srikkanth as team mentor, promoted India captain MS Dhoni to the rank of vice-president in his company India Cements, but no question was asked from within the board. All was hunky-dory then.

Theres also a big difference between sports and politics. Those who run sports bodies have very little accountability because they are not elected by the public. This is a reason why the politicians who raise a hue and cry over taint and graft in Parliament, usually are mute spectators in the BCCI meetings as long as their personal equations and interests are not compromised. At the moment, most of the BCCI doesnt see anything wrong with Srinivasan not resigning from his post or continuing to attend the International Cricket Council (ICC) meetings. But if theres an election in September and Pawar-politics wins, then there could be an upheaval. The next three months are going to be very interesting.