So yesterday, in between doing my usual stuff in the Yahoo edit room, blogging, and hosting the day’s episode of the live show, I along with a handful of colleagues here in Bangalore were involved in three different tele-conferences with company folk across the Asia-Pacific region. Been doing a lot of that, since I joined Yahoo — and very simple it is, too, besides saving an enormous amount of travel.
Couldn’t help thinking of that, when I read that BCCI president Shashank Manohar, who is reportedly hugely incensed with the “serious breach” committed by his technical understudy, Lalit K Modi, had summoned an “emergency” meeting of the IPL governing council — in ten days.
Dude, if that is your definition of “emergency”, god help us all when it comes to routine affairs. Never heard of telephone/video conferences? Maybe you should get that company, who your commentators keep hyping as being in the forefront of technology, to help you out here?
Then again, we all know the real reason: to buy time.
Modi’s petty act of revenge against Tharoor has had the unintended consequence of opening up a much larger can of worms [that Modi did not anticipate this, when he compulsively tweeted about Kochi and added grandiloquent comments about the need for transparency, is indicative of his mental processes].
Here’s a sampler:
That’s Sanjay Dixit, one time Modi aide de camp in Rajasthan and now implacable foe, on his Twitter stream, pointing out that since we have now entered the era of transparency, it is perhaps time to talk of the holding pattern of the Rajasthan Royals franchise. That’s a whole other can of worms — and Modi really doesn’t want to go there. The IPL is still in relative infancy — it could possibly survive questions being asked about a franchise that is yet to begin operations, but start questioning the others, and the whole edifice could crumble in a hurry.
Even this could be managed. The BCCI could pretend shock and horror about the murky dealings relating to RR, throw Modi to the wolves, and continue to run the racket with others at the helm [and it helps that within the BCCI there is no shortage of willing volunteers all anxious for a slice of the IPL pie]. But the problem actually is much bigger than even that.
For instance, one line of Modi’s response to Manohar has passed largely unnoticed:
“They said they would revert back. Within minutes of me asking the same, I got a call from Shashi Tharoor asking me not to ask about who these shareholders are. You [Manohar] had mentioned that we should ignore who this owner is, but our condition requires us to authenticate who they are.”
That is why this story is only going to get better. Or worse, depending on your point of view.
The BCCI, the IPL, the political class, Bollywood, industrialists — they are all so inextricably tied to one another that the slightest tug on one end of the string comes with the risk that the entire fabric will unravel. And that is precisely why Manohar needs 10 days to hold an “emergency” meeting — time to paper over the cracks, limit the damage, and find some kind of formula to put the worms back in the can.
The political fallout can be contained. Though the BJP has latched on to the issue and demanded Tharoor’s head over the issue of corruption, the Congress is not exactly without weapons for a counter attack. For instance, we are talking of this Modi and the BJP? Also, don’t forget that arguably the most corrupt cricket body within the BCCI fold is the DDCA — run by a minor BJP functionary by the name of Arun Jaitley. Glass houses, stones…
So no real problems there — some short term fussing, which is eminently containable, is the worst that will happen on the political front.
The danger the BCCI sees is that the GoI, seeing a direct threat to one of its own, will let loose with the economic weapon. A probe into Kochi is one thing — but a larger IT-driven investigation into all franchises, and into the IPL itself, terrifies the heck out of the Board.
Hence Manohar’s need for time, to figure out a viable compromise formula that can be credibly sold to the media and the public. The first step was to gag Lalit Modi. His last post on Twitter was almost two days ago. The fact that the independent minded commissioner actually submitted to being gagged should tell you a story — he acted without thinking beyond the short term, and now he, and the BCCI, are in desperate need of solutions.
Ten days of back room maneuvering — with BCCI veep Rajiv Shukla playing the interface between the Board and the government — now follows. It also provides space for the dust Modi raised to settle on its own. It is highly unlikely that the media will pursue the matter beyond another news cycle, at best — after all, if the media approaches the board it can say we have called for an emergency meeting; if it goes to the government there is always Manmohan Singh’s latest statement that he has called for all available information and will decide on action after he has digested that. In other words, there are stonewalls in place, and such tepid responses don’t give the media much grist to work with.
Already, however, one thing is clear behind the scenes: come season 4, Lalit Modi will remain as commissioner, but with a considerably reduced wingspan, and freedom. Watch this space.