Sitting in the visitors’ gallery in the Supreme Court, I have been benumbed by the brazenness of BCCI and state units — like a cantankerous child, whose toy has been forcibly taken away, BCCI has been throwing tantrums and almost questioning the power of the Supreme Court to interfere with the governance of what they claim, is a wholly private society.
Just see who is complaining? Haryana Cricket Association (HCA), which was taken over during the emergency by Haryana strongman, Bansi Lal, has seen his son, Ranbir Singh Mahendra, and now his grandson, Anirudh Chaudhry, control it. HCA is a family-owned company where no cricketer can even become a member, what to talk of an office-bearer! Who will forget the meeting in 1994 where the legendary Kapil Dev and several cricketers were almost manhandled and thrown out by Ranbir Mahendra’s henchmen in Chandigarh? Is it any wonder that each of the 21 districts in Haryana gets a measly `1 lakh a year when BCCI gives `35 crore as subvention money?
Like in DDCA, where hundreds of crores have been swindled and defalcated, practically no state association can properly account for hundreds of crores that were given to them over the last decade. Most of them do not even have a proper stadium despite gobbling up tons of money. Saurashtra Cricket Association (SCA) has been run by Niranjan Shah and according to his counsel, used to have a stationary shop till 42 years ago, when he got into SCA.
Claiming credit for producing Salim Durrani, Ravindra Jadeja and Cheteshwar Pujara, he wants the proposed age cap of 70 years and 9-year tenure embargo to be dropped. Karnataka and indeed all state associations have two major problems with Lodha Committee recommendations. The bar on age and three terms are dampeners and a blow to the continued vice like grip on BCCI and state units. Not only do they want control of their vote, but they do not want to share the ‘booty’ or subvention money with any new member, like Northeastern states and Bihar. The current status is fine. Get 15 states/votes and control all power, money and positions in States and BCCI.
The politicians can make a mockery of the election process. Just swing three central votes — Universities, Services and Railways — and add the captive 11 votes from Kolkata, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. This core team then gets all the privileges such as membership/leadership of plum Committees of BCCI — Marketing, Umpiring, Tours and Fixtures, Managers, coaches, support staff etc. Why wobble the ship with new Northeastern states and Bihar and why reduce their own booty to be shared — seems to be the common refrain? The state associations can teach even the politicians how to rig elections. Membership is rigged and elections are manipulated. In Delhi, proxy voting is thoroughly abused with multiple members even residing at the residences of office-bearers. 24 office-bearers control nearly 4,200 out of 4,300 proxies. Sadly for the BCCI and its affiliates — they have hit a wall with the Supreme Court.
Wanting to show that they are prepared to be ‘reformed’, they have grudgingly agreed to bring a Rohilkhand University business graduate as CEO. They are also showing grace by agreeing to have a Ranji and Under-23 team consisting of some Northeastern states which are not already represented. But from the looks of it, the Supreme Court bench is seeing through the machinations, and is set to recommend a host of reforms for the cricket body soon.
Maharashtra, Baroda, Punjab and now, Haryana Cricket Association’s counsel have added a new dimension to their brazenness by claiming that Lodha Committee’s recommendations were only recommendations — nothing more. But, the common man and the Apex Court believe that the recommendations are binding and the only question now is how and when they will be implemented.
The executive functionaries are all honorary office-bearers with most of the top state cricket associations being run by a politician, or a bureaucrat or a heavyweight industrialist, petty shopkeepers, tailors, drapers, stationary shop owners. Barring former India captain Sourav Ganguly, who is the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) president and Dilip Vengsarkar, Vice-president of Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA), none of the top cricketers are running the show in state units. The second contentious issue that probably will be dealt with in the report is the ‘Conflict of Interest’. The committee may also suggest making IPL a separate private limited company under Section 8 which has to reinvest all its profits.
Among the major points on governance structure, it needs to be seen if the all-powerful working committee may do away with suggestions about having a paid Board of Directors.
Politicians in BCCI
The most contentious issue seems to be the committee’s recommendations on politicians, who occupy top positions in the Board. Already resentful of any such move, a lot of members in the BCCI have started saying it is tough to ensure that only ex-players can prove to be good administrators. In fact, they claim that politicians are required to get clearances from local government and having politicians at the helm helps them to get clearances easily.
We have already seen how a file for demolition was kept hanging in various courts for 19 years and how an unauthorized block in Ferozshah Kotla was not touched despite Delhi High Court’s orders. Having seen the abuse and misuse of the due process of law in many associations, it is no surprise that BCCI and state units spend several crores each year in fighting against several stakeholders and even the government agencies, in an attempt to tire them out.
I myself sent 200 letters to DDCA’s President, a self-proclaimed ace administrator, pointing out grave irregularities and loot happening right under his nose. He took no action. In fact, Lodha Committee and now, the approach of Supreme Court and Amicus Curiae has come as a whiff of fresh air. While I agree with most of Lodha Committee’s suggestions, I have my reservations about two. One, which suggests legalizing betting in cricket and second, the representation to be given to IPL franchisees.
Single digit lotteries have ruined Indian families and have spawned a whole generation that has destroyed poor families — the golden triangle of Mumbai, Karachi and Dubai will simply jump into the betting syndicate and probably the days of ruin of poor families will not be far if betting is permitted in cricket. Similarly, the initial experience of CSK and RR has shown how franchise owners can subvert a system.
And for top BCCI officials, their final argument is, “We are elected members of state associations. We have come through democratic election process.” Gopal Subramanian, amicus curiae, conveyed the worst fears of the deep-rooted rot in cricket by emphasising how Justice Mukul Mudgal has described the state of affairs in DDCA, where chaps control 1400 and 1600 proxies respectively, and manipulate the elections year after year. The CJI rightly quipped, “Are all these guys indispensable and that there is no one else to step into their shoes? The cemeteries the world over, are full of people who were once indispensable. It is time that these guys moved over.”
The author is a former cricketer and a Member of the Lok Sabha. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org