The Cat in the Hats — the sequel

The selection of the national team for the World Cup. Another back from behind win by India in the one day series, just when South Africa was salivating over the prospect of taking over as number two in the rankings (and while on that, would you say Zaheer Khan to Graeme Smith, at the start of the South African innings, ranks among the best spells you ever saw that did not get a wicket?). And in other news, a Prime Minister besieged by allegations of corruption finds the perfect solution: a Cabinet reshuffle that takes the corrupt ministers out of the departments they are practicing (practice might actually be the wrong word to describe their depredations — they are perfect in what they do, no?) their corruption in, and moves them into other departments to practice their corruption in. Lewis Carroll foretold this Cabinet reshuffle, and parodied it before the fact in the famous Mad Hatter’s Tea Party scene.

In passing, and thanks to a conversation with friends like @sumants and @kskarun on Twitter while the reshuffle exercise was on, I was prompted to dig out my well-thumbed copy of the Jonathan Lynn/Antony Jay classic, Yes Prime Minister, to find a passage I could only vaguely remember at the time. Here it is (from the Man Overboard episode):

Hacker: ‘What I want is to show the public that there are no divisions in the Cabinet.’

Bernard: ‘But there are divisions.’

Hacker: ‘I don’t want to multiply them.’

Bernard: ‘Prime Minister, if you multiply divisions you get back to where you started….’

Tip to political analysts: When trying to make sense of what is happening in your area of specialization, you will find the two Lynn-Jay books, Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister, a far more valuable resource than all the scholarly tomes on politics. For instance, on the whole Niira Radia-privacy-wire-tapping issue:

Sir Humphrey: “Surveillance is an indispensable weapon in the battle against organized crime.”
Jim Hacker: “You’re not describing politicians as organized crime?”
Sir Humphrey: “No…well, disorganized crime too of course.”

Could anything sum it up better?

Okay, enough non-sequiturs. In what has been a busy few days, a story that merits attention slipped under the collective radar. Remember when a Parliamentary Committee decided to question the BCCI honchos about foreign exchange violations and other skulduggery? Questions were asked about the source of funding of some IPL teams, and also about various foreign exchange transactions relating to the IPL edition held in South Africa.

The BCCI’s defense was the classic SODDIT (Some Other Dude Did It). And the sod they said did it was, but of course, Lalit Modi. (This move prompted Revenue Secretary Sunil Mitra to inform the Yashwant Sinha-led committee that for all legal and tax purposes, the IPL was a subset of the BCCI and that therefore the BCCI was responsible for any and all decisions taken by the IPL).

Turns out, even such distinctions are unnecessary. While we were distracted with the national team selection and the SA ODI, CNN-IBN broke a story that received surprisingly little attention in the media. This one.

Never mind that the source of our very own mini-wikileaks is fairly obvious, what the released documents (Here’s the cache) indicate is fairly obvious: N Srinivasan’s (Earlier post: The Cat in the Hats) fingerprints are all over the thing.

#BCCI President Shashank Manohar was formally authorized to take, on behalf of the BCCI, the final decision on the venue.

#The payment process for the SA edition of the IPL was detailed by N Srinivasan, who signed the agreement with CSA.

#N Srinivasan approved, and signed off on, all payments, transfers of funds, etc.

An under-reported story is the extent to which N Srinivasan’s insidious control over the Board extends. (For example: An India Cements employee is chairman of the national selectors — in fact, the first chairman after a rule change that ensured that the selection committee would not be changed after each board election — and also brand ambassador of the franchise that is owned by India Cements. A sports management agency owned by the CSK skipper represents, among others, India Cements. And so on. Tug on any thread you see before you, and it unravels endlessly.)

In continuation of that theme, consider this clip:

Every case for approval was made by Prasanna Kanan who was the CFO of IPL and otherwise an India Cements employee seconded to BCCI. He reported all expenses to N Srinivasan who approved them. No money was paid except after go ahead by N Srinivasan who controlled the entire expenses.

That is to say, the Chief Financial Officer in “Modi’s IPL” was an India Cements employee “seconded to” the BCCI. Reminds me of when I was transferred from Rediff.com to the newspaper India Abroad. The same organization owns both entities, so my shift was in the nature of an inter-company transfer. In the same spirit, would you say the same entity/person owns both India Cements and the BCCI?

The last time I wrote about the president-elect of the BCCI, a friend asked in email why I was banging on about this bloke. There is a reason: The story of Indian cricket follows an endless, destructive cycle. Some matches, some triumphs, some disasters, then a monetary scandal; some noise about said scandal, some ‘inquiries’ calculated to buy time till we forget; some more matches, some ‘give them bread and circus’ distractions; another monetary scandal… rinse, repeat, ad infinitum, ad nauseum.

Back in the day, there was a big brouhaha about the corruption of the Jagmohan Dalmiya regime; hosannas were sung when Dalmiya was replaced by Team Sharad Pawar (what irony!), which sought an electoral victory on the plank of introducing transparency (more irony — Pawar and his hand-picked successors have if anything been more devious, their corruption more subterranean, than anything Dalmiya ever did). The Modi regime at the IPL was deemed corrupt; it has since been replaced by the N Srinivasan regime (Chirayu Amin is nominally in-charge of the IPL, but discount that — as must be painfully evident now, all decisions whether they relate to the BCCI or the IPL emanate from the office of India Cements the Board Secretary). Come to think of it, the shuffling of the board bears parallels to the various Cabinet reshuffle exercises at the center, no? Same problem — endemic corruption. Same solution — move the corrupt around the party table, Mad Hatter style.

A sub-set to this problem is the very real danger that corruption does not begin and end with the Board honchos — increasingly, wittingly or otherwise, players get drawn into this web, as pointed out in passing in these two posts: Apres the Auction and its sequel, and Putting the Free in Markets.

If it is not important to “bang on about this”, as my friend characterized the posts in this series, then what is?

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41 thoughts on “The Cat in the Hats — the sequel

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