Radio silence

Traveling to Delhi tomorrow, for a two-day series of meetings. Off blog from now till sometime late tomorrow night, hence. Just FYI 🙂

Be well all.

Connect the dots

The first leak: bid documents submitted by Videocon and the Adani group, in the auction round last month, have gone missing. Poof.

The second leak: inspired whispering suggests that Sadanand Sule, Sharad Pawar’s son in law, was part of the Videocon bid. Supriya Sule now in damage control mode, denying all links to the IPL.

The picture sought to be painted? Pawar’s support for Modi, fervent till late last evening, stems from the fact that he through his son in law had a major role to play in the controversial auction.

Is the Opposition now going to demand the NCP strongman’s head in the same way it went after Tharoor? The Congress is half hoping something of the kind happens — a Pawar on the defensive is exactly where the party wants him. Unlikely the Opposition will make such noises, though.

Meanwhile, the rehabilitation of Shashi Tharoor continues apace, with a speech in Parliament just now seeking a full inquiry into the charges against him, and complete exoneration — a speech incidentally laced with rhetoric about the voters of Thiruvananthapuram and the great people of India.

Elsewhere, Economic Times — which has been over the last two days in the forefront of surfacing stories of Modi’s shenanigans — scores a hat-trick:

Story 1 talks of how Suresh Chellaram, Modi’s brother in law, saw his IPL holdings appreciate in value 13 times in course of a single year [eat your heart out, Shah Rukh].

Story 2 details financial skulduggery in the awarding of television rights. Worth noting, the fact that board officials were behind the leaks in the first place, and have been quick to suggest, albeit anonymously, that they have nothing to do with any of this.

Story 3, in the interests of cutting off the limbs, goes after one of Modi’s proxies in KXIP. More on him here.

While reading all this, keep one central fact in mind: the GoI has been aware of most of this for at least 8, more likely 10, months now. Just in case you were marveling at how efficient the investigative agencies are, and how quickly the whole ball of wax is unravelling. Also, ask the BCCI how long it has known of the Netlinkblue connection, including the systematic defaulting on payments.

Update: A recurring theme on this blog and elsewhere has been how the Congress is using this controversy to whip its allies and opponents into line. A classic example just now: First, Sharad Pawar was whistled into a meeting to “discuss IPL”, with P Chidambaram and Pranab Mukherjee. At the end of the meeting, he was told to go tell Modi that he had to resign.

Classic example of the deliberate and public use of muscle, to serve as a warning shot: Pawar, after all, is not part of the IPL governing council; outside of being Maharashtra Bombay Cricket Association president, he is not part of the BCCI’s decision making body. So why ask him to convey the message, when there are others — the name of Rajiv Shukla comes to mind — who are far better placed to do the deed?

Plain and simple, a power-play: The Congress telling Pawar, right, you were backing this guy, now you are nominated to go chop him off at the knees. Buck us on this, and we come after you too. Pawar has to do that — and in that helplessness lies the message the Congress is conveying to him.

Rack and roll

Must be a sign of the times: these days, I find myself turning increasingly to television for my daily dose of humor. Last evening’s quota was filled by the sight of Shobha De and Chetan Bhagat paneling on a discussion on Tharoor, hearing Mandira Bedi solemnly assure anyone who would listen that there will be “transparency from now on”,  and by seeing Vijay Mallya [whose step daughter Laila Mahmood’s connection with Modi was recently in the news] appear on multiple TV channels as Lalit Modi’s PR agent in chief. [While on Laila, the media is yet to make a ‘story’ out of the family-and-friends affair that is the IPL: Amar, Inderjit Singh Bindra’s son, and his role at KXIP; Poorna, Praful Patel’s daughter, who ‘looks after’ marketing from Modi’s office, and so on].

This morning, the fun is in the headlines: CNN-IBN cites “sources” as saying that Sharad Pawar has told Lalit Modi that he is in a “difficul position”. What the hell is that supposed to mean? “Sorry, dude, supporting your shenanigans when it was all sub rosa is one thing, but I can’t stick my neck out for you now that the excreta has hit the ceiling fan”?

CNN-IBN [not suggesting by the way that it leads the pack in silliness — just that the TV closest to me happens to be tuned to that channel, so I am getting this stuff by default] also cites “sources” as saying, and this is a verbatim quote, “BCCI suspects Modi of financial irregularities”.

No shit, Sherlock?! You could have knocked me dead with the proverbial feather.

Seriously, is that the best the channel’s “sources” can do?

Over the past 24 hours, much has changed. Shashank Manohar, the man Sharad Pawar had hand-picked to succeed him as BCCI chief, has fallen out with his mentor, and is now leading the anti-Pawar camp.

That camp has grown in strength over the last day [hence Pawar’s move to put daylight between himself and Modi] and now dominates the BCCI; it is that camp that over the past 12 hours arrived at certain decisions that increasingly seem irrevocable. Sure, they have governing council and executive committee and other bodies scheduled to meet to ‘discuss’ the affair and to allow Modi to make his case — file that under going-through-the-motions, since everything that has to be decided already has been.

To wit: 1. The board has moved beyond its original intent to trim Lalit Modi to size, and is now determined to get rid of him before the stain spreads to their own lily white liveries. The choice LKM is being given is to exit the stage in his own way before the end of IPL-3, or go through the ignominy of being turfed out in unceremonious fashion. 2. Shashank Manohar, whose term as BCCI president ends in September, will move into the chair of IPL commissioner and in tandem with N Srinivasan, will become de facto decision makers on all things IPL and BCCI. 3. In the interests of hanging Modi out to dry as early as possible, and thus turning the heat off the board, BCCI honchos behind the scenes will help investigating agencies by pointing them at where some bodies are buried.

Once Modi is out, the GoIs investigating agencies will “take action” on some of his scams, while conveniently finding “no concrete evidence” of others. It is in everyone’s interests to make an example of the man, but it is in nobody’s interests to probe too deep, especially into the business of franchises run by high profile industrialists and such who routinely pump money into the Congress party’s electoral coffers.

Notice, meanwhile, that the IT, ED and other investigative departments are leaking like a public toilet — a clear indication of the government’s playbook [officials leak with such regularity only when they have the ministerial nod to turn up the decibel count]. The GoI will in public go hot and heavy after Modi; below the surface, the real play will be aimed at embarrassing the BJP massively over Modi’s multiple scams in Rajasthan when Vasundhara Raje ruled the state, and slipping a very tight leash around Pawar’s neck to hold the NCP satrap and his party in line.

What, you thought this sudden zeal to “get to the bottom” of an IPL mess the FinMin had been aware of for months now was because the government is hell bent on eradicating corruption? Corruption is good, from a realpolitik point of view; proof of corruption is even better since it gives governments a means to mould otherwise intractable clay to their own purposes.

Since it is in the government’s interests to let this play out in the media, the spate of daily front page headlines in print and “sources” whispering assorted inanities into the ears of cable television will continue, creating the impression that events are moving with the speeded-up velocity of a cartoon flick. In reality, though, the play has been called, the final picture has been painted, and all concerned are now in go-through-the-motions phase.

In passing, the likes of Lalu Yadav — who has quietly converted the Bihar Cricket Association into his personal fiefdom — are now calling for a government takeover of the BCCI. Laugh, that you may not weep — what is required is professional management of the board, not its death by slow government poison. The suggestion has led to one of the most amusing hashtags on Twitter. Statutory warning: some of the posts are laugh out loud funny, hence not perhaps suited for open plan offices.