Even as Narendra Modi jet sets around the country, hoping to garner enough votes and seats to install a BJP-led government at the Centre, Lalit Modi cruises around London in a flashy Ferrari, sporting a plate — CRI3KET — eager to see the former come to power because he believes that the BJP will be more sympathetic to him.
Lalit Modi’s display picture on Twitter once had enough hints about his allegiance. It said, “I am with Modi. Are you?”
Last September, when Lalit Modi filed his nomination for the president’s post in the Rajasthan Cricket Association (RCA) polls, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) challenged his move. But Modi and his lawyers found a loophole as the RCA came under the Rajasthan Sports Act, and with the BJP government in power in the state, he got his nomination through.
That was the first battle won and then came the election, which was held on 19 January. But the declaration of results was held back. On 30 April, the Supreme Court allowed the results to be declared on 6 May. Not only did Modi win hands down, garnering 24 of the 33 votes polled, his allies also won the key posts. Modi’s legal counsel Mehmood M Abdi was elected as the RCA’s vice-president, Somendra Tiwari as the new secretary and Pawan Goyal as the treasurer. Undoubtedly, a victory for Lalit Modi in his fight against the BCCI.
It is indeed interesting to note that Lalit Modi’s troubles started with the 2009 General Election, when he literally thumbed his nose at the authority and declared that the Indian Premier League could not wait for the Lok Sabha polls to get over (the government refused to provide security for the tournament because the paramilitary and police forces would be busy on poll duty). Modi took IPL-2 to South Africa and things have never been the same again. The BCCI is still answering numerous questions about that shift, money matters and much else.
Five years on, Modi is relying on the General Election to be able to return to India. He makes no secret that he hopes to be back in India once the regime changes.
Soon after he got the news of winning the RCA election, the website cricinfo.com asked him about the uncertainty of his return to India. He replied, “It is not uncertain. I will be back soon. As and when the Indian government changes, we will see. In 10 days’ time, the election results will be out, so we never know how soon I will be back in India.”
As expected, within minutes of an ecstatic Modi giving interviews and tweeting to his heart’s content, the BCCI wasted no time in banning the RCA itself. Modi reacted with a series of tweets, saying, “Anyone who thinks they can just suspend us and get away (with it), and think the BCCI is their personal property… wait and watch… we will not allow you… to make a mockery of the game and now we have a voice officially in the Board and we will make ourselves heard. Wait and watch.”
BCCI officials say that they will not allow the Rajasthan players to be in harm’s way, but we all know that in the end, it is the players who become the scapegoats.
The BCCI’s claims that Modi is detrimental to the image of Indian cricket and the board sound hollow when one takes into account how the Supreme Court rapped former BCCI president N Srinivasan on the knuckles and asked him to step down. Now, the same Srinivasan wants to represent India’s interests at the International Cricket Council (ICC).
Despite the RCA election results, it is not going to be smooth sailing for the flamboyant Modi, who is also taking credit for the way the BCCI has been taken to task by the courts, media, et al. In fact, he has suggested that it was he who has led the fight to remove Srinivasan from the cricket board. And he has gone on to say that the CAB (Cricket Association of Bihar) has his support and that he has given them the documents to fight Srinivasan and that they have been strategising together.
This is the first time that Modi has claimed openly to having helped the CAB. How comfortable the CAB is with Modi’s revelations/claims, we do not know. Because no one is sure what Lalit Modi is going to say or do next. While he may know more secrets about the BCCI, the IPL and Srinivasan than anyone else, it is also difficult to sift reality from the allegations.
While no one trusts Srinivasan, Modi’s behaviour when he was at the helm was also contentious. He ruled the IPL like it was his personal fiefdom. He and his men would literally ride roughshod over all and his arrogance was impossible to bear. Those who have seen him function would give him “credit” for taking quick decisions, but were never sure if everyone else were on board.
It is a well-known fact that Modi is a maverick and no one knows how to deal with him. He could be a bit of an “unguided missile”, and depending on his personal and perceived grievances, he could target anyone.
For instance, Modi was once close to Srinivasan, the same target he can’t go to sleep without letting loose a string of barbs at; he was also once close to Rajeev Shukla, the Congress politician who became the IPL commissioner after the BCCI expelled Modi. As far as Modi is concerned, Shukla is also “on the other side”.
Senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley is an important figure in the IPL, but over the past few years, he has been a target for Modi, who even recently tweeted a photo of Jaitley with Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi and Robert Vadra. One is not sure whether it was real or photoshopped.
And what about Sundar Raman, the man Modi brought in as the chief operating officer of the IPL, and who is now a favourite of Srinivasan? In their war of words, Srinivasan called Modi a “fugitive” while Modi has claimed that Srinivasan, with his hold over the BCCI and the ICC, has tried to fix everything — be it the game or the board meetings.
For a long time, it seemed Modi was down and out. Now, with his RCA election results having been declared and Srinivasan, ostensibly, on the mat with everyone from the man on the street to cricket lover to the apex court considering him detrimental to cricket, it seems the tide has turned, just that little bit, towards Modi’s side.
It remains to be seen whether Modi can return to India, and then who knows what will happen. Stranger things have happened in Indian cricket.