A couple of days ago,this newspaper unearthed fresh evidence to show the involvement of a powerful minister and his family members : together,they held 16.5 per cent share in a company that had bid for one of the teams from Pune.Unlike their claims,let us be clear that it is not an insignificant portion;but that is another story.
The fact is all this would have remained buried but for some sharp investigative reporting; after all, theirs was an indirect investment in the form of two companies : Lap Finance and Namrata Film Enterprises. Who would have guessed the powers behind these two obscure companies.
Who would have guessed, indeed! [The above is a clip from ToI Sports Editor Bobilli Vijay Kumar’s opinion piece in Sunday’s paper].
Not for the first time [and speaking as a mediaperson myself], I’m hugely amused by how well trained we journalists have become. Someone, for his or her own personal interest, throws us a nicely colored ball. And off we go en masse, barking happily, to ‘fetch’.
ToI, for instance, has front-paged the story of Sharad Pawar’s links to the IPL most days over the previous week. The pattern was set early: a revelation and reactions from Pawar/Supriya Sule one day. Next day, a fresh revelation that refuges Pawar/Sule, and the father-daughter combine’s reactions to that revelation. And so on — with the paper making self-congratulatory asides about its intrepid reportage. [Tangential note: I’m talking of ToI here merely as the most obvious example].
The fact is all this would have remained buried but for some sharp investigative reporting.
Umm. The fact is, all this would have remained buried but for (a) Lalit Modi’s misjudging a strategic play and tweeting publicly about Sunanda Pushkar’s sweat equity and (b) the resultant no-holds-barred war within the BCCI, that has led to some inspired leaking by both sides. For instance, ToI’s “sharp investigative reporting” claim is belied by the fact that every media outlet has copies of the same documents in its possession. Consider:
DNA has in its possession a copy of a City Corp board resolution —submitted by Deshpande to the BCCI along with his bid — expressly authorising him to bid on behalf of City Corp.
That’s DNA on the front page, yesterday. Here’s Cricinfo:
But the minutes of the January 31 meeting, a copy of which is available with Cricinfo, states that Deshpande was asked to go ahead with the bid in the company’s name.
I could go on — that theme, of having the document in possession, is a constant in pretty much every media house that covered the story. If you didn’t know better, you’d end up conjuring visions of a whole pack of journalistic Sherlocks following the blood trail and, in concert, fetching up at the spot where the body was buried.
More prosaically, what you are actually seeing is the outward manifestation of an internecine conflict for control of the BCCI. Modi, who needed to please his backers, attempted to torpedo the Kochi franchise by roping in Pushkar’s equity, and linking her to Tharoor. That got the whole show-cause snowball rolling. Pawar, who is intricately linked with the IPL, backed Modi to the hilt [though Modi has other backers within the BCCI’s higher echelons, Pawar’s is the most powerful voice; without him, the rest fall apart].
That was stage one. Once it became clear that the disciplinary hearing would end in Modi’s ouster, the ‘IPL commissioner [suspended]’ attempted to up the ante by first pointing fingers at Shashank Manohar and more pertinently, to N Srinivasan. The idea was to undercut his opposition by taking out the two top members of the BCCI hierarchy.
Now comes the BCCI push-back: some inspired leaking by the board’s bigwigs [how do you suppose the documents “came into the possession” of various media entities?] is clearly aimed to turn the heat right back on Pawar, to reduce him to a spent force, and thus to weaken Modi’s position within the board [in a case of unintended irony, the documents the board is now busily leaking are from the very same boxes Lalit Modi had delivered, with considerable fanfare, to the BCCI — thus earning brownie points for giving up what was actually BCCI property in the first place]. Significantly, Modi took time off from responding to his own slew of notices to mount a spirited — if not persuasive — defense of Pawar.
The amusing part is how the media is playing facilitator in what is really an internal war. Each fresh revelation triggers a concerted baying for blood: first Tharoor; then, when the government of India got into the act through its investigative arms, Modi; then, through Modi’s various tweets and media statements and letters, the likes of Srinivasan; now, Pawar…
Interested parties want one or the other personality brought down; some inspired whispering in the media’s receptive ears is all it takes these days to get the job done.
Which is not to suggest that the various officials are lily-white. The board is one vast web of conflicting interests [It always has been — from what seems an endless lifetime of chronicling the board’s shenanigans, here’s a link to a series dating back to when the CBI, after concluding its match-fixing investigations, went after the BCCI — oh, and by way of bonus, the man in charge then was AC Muthaiah, who is now playing the role of crusader]. The current scenario is no different: Modi has his fingers in the IPL pie; N Srinivasan has a stake in it; so does Sharad Pawar; IS Bindra and other officials get their slice of the action; star cricketers Ravi Shastri and Sunny Gavaskar get to suckle at the BCCI’s teat in return for lending the board the legitimacy, such as it is, of their presence…
The defenses trotted out by those under attack are equally hilarious. N Srinivasan, responding to the charge of conflict of interest, argued that he had Pawar’s permission [which is nice — one conflicted official gave another official permission to be similarly conflicted]. Pawar’s argument is that he may have stakes in entities ranging from City Corporation to, more recently, Vijay Mallya’s United Spirits, argues that owning stake in a company that bids for IPL franchises is not equal to owning a stake in an IPL franchise. And Manohar produced this gem while defending Chirayu Amin from a recent Modi salvo:
Shashank Manohar, the BCCI President, has challenged Lalit Modi’s contention that Chirayu Amin, the interim IPL chairman, was part of a consortium that bid unsuccessfully for the Pune franchise. While clarifying that Amin’s intention had been to only invest in City Corporation Ltd – the concerned group – in the event of a successful bid, Manohar alleged it was Modi who urged the franchise to contact Amin to become a part of that consortium.
Eh? The ‘clarification’ is that a senior board official wanted to wait and see if a particular entity won its bid — and then he would invest in that entity? That is a ‘defense’?
And that is why why I’m not particular impressed by all this “investigative journalism” that’s going on. What, after all, has all this muck-raking unearthed? That various officials have hidden stakes in the IPL? No shit, Sherlock? What, you thought Modi was running the IPL without taking a salary because he was interested in the uplift of cricket in this country? Or that sundry officials push and shove and elbow each other to get prime positions in local associations and through that, in the BCCI hierarchy, motivated by nothing more than undiluted altruism?
Here’s what I wish the media would do. In its next expose, could it incorporate a line that reads: ‘Documents leaked to us by Shashank Manohar Lalit Modi N Srinivasan [insert appropriate name here] indicate that…’? At least that way, we’d know who is playing the latest hand in this endless soap opera — and that would help us understand better the nature of the latest set of charges being levelled.