Saturday, April 24, 2010

Bogus rage over IPL tamasha!

And while St Peter's thieves debate... (ELP, Works, Vol 1)

So, IPL is not only about adrenaline-pumping cricket! Here are some statistics about IPL’s third season: 57 matches, 54 parties, 270 hours of partying and 1,29,600 bottles of beer. And just in case you want to know what happens at these parties (to which, of course, you will never be invited as you don’t belong to the charmed circle of ‘celebrities’ who claim to represent ‘new’ India) check out Friday’s Telegraph which has published a set of photographs on the front page capturing the tide of testosterone that hit Dublin, the happening place at ITC Sonar Bangla in Kolkata, well past the witching hour. Apparently, discarding clothes to the rhythm of Flo Rida’s Right Round is de rigueur to celebrate the completion of an IPL match, in this case between Kolkata Knight Riders and Rajasthan Royals. Why else would KKR opener Chris Gayle and a starlet called Sherlyn Chopra make a public spectacle of themselves?

No, I am not taking a moral position on clothes being dropped at a private party (admittedly in a public place) or 1,29,600 bottles of beer being swigged over 270 hours of partying. What worries me is that such vulgarity should be seen as an indicator of India’s social and economic progress. No less worrisome is the widely held notion that much of young India aspires to a lifestyle stripped of all values, morals and ethics. If this is what globalisation and liberalisation have done to us as a nation, a people, then perhaps the Coca-colonisation of the world is not such a terribly good idea.

Yet, I cannot bring myself to even remotely support, leave alone endorse, the ersatz anger and bogus anguish of our Members of Parliament who have spent the past week debating, discussing and deliberating upon the great cricketing tamasha called IPL. The faux outrage of our politicians over IPL’s alleged financial scandals and scams deserves to be ignored with all the contempt that can be mustered, not least because each statement, every utterance, heard in Parliament reeks of hypocrisy and worse. It ill suits our politicians to be smugly moralistic and pretend self-righteous indignation.

It is laughable to hear, of all people, Mr Lalu Prasad Yadav, whose loot of Bihar is surpassed only by the sacking of Delhi by Nadir Shah, wax eloquent on the need for probity in IPL. Strange as it may sound, he is the president of Bihar Cricket Association. But it’s not strange to hear him demand that IPL should be ‘nationalised’ and Government should manage commercial cricket in the country. He would want that as it would open various avenues of grabbing a slice of the pie that has till now been denied to him. That Mr Lalu Prasad Yadav’s wannabe cricketer son has acquired neither fame nor money via the IPL route is not entirely inconsequential in determining his attitude towards the cricketing enterprise as it exists. Politics can be leveraged to the advantage of kith and kin if an institution belongs to the public sector: Hence the Rashtriya Janata Dal leader’s demand that IPL be ‘nationalised’.

Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav believes, or so he claims, that the alleged mess in IPL’s affairs is the “fallout of a lop-sided policy of promoting a foreign game at the cost of indigenous sports”. That’s very endearingly rustic, but it’s utter nonsense — or, as a friend exclaimed, it’s unadulterated tripe. Kushti and khokho are not exactly spectator sports, or else Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav’s many friends in the corporate sector would have by now done a Lalit K Modi with both. More importantly, the Samajwadi Party leader’s criticism of cricket is as antediluvian as his party’s Lok Sabha election manifesto which promised to abolish English and banish computers from Uttar Pradesh and (if he were to become Prime Minister) the rest of the country.

And then there is the irrepressible leader of the working class, the one and only Gurudas Dasgupta, who is known for his proximity to both trade unions and the managements against whom they stage periodic strikes and agitations, often with disastrous results. “At the root of the problem lies the fact that IPL is laundering black money, it is a caricature of cricket… It is nothing more than organised gamble,” the venerable CPI leader thundered in Parliament. Amazingly, the BJP has embraced the Left’s agenda by demanding that a Joint Parliamentary Committee be set up to probe, of all things, the shenanigans of IPL! High matters of state have obviously ceased to matter for the main Opposition party.

It’s the colour of IPL’s money that’s bothering our politicians, is it? If only they would disclose the colour of the money that is used for funding election campaigns and the source of the money that greases the giant, uneven wheels of our democracy and keeps them moving! Had the colour of money been of such great significance for our holier-than-thou politicians, they would have by now forged sufficient consensus to bring about sweeping electoral reforms to eliminate the role of big money, bad money, slush money and black money in elections.

Pilloried incessantly by party elders for his links with a certain businessman, the late lamented BJP leader Pramod Mahajan had once shot back at his critics in a closed door meeting: “He is not a prostitute with whom you can sleep at night and refuse to recognise in the morning.” On the eve of the Mumbai Maha-adhiveshan in 1996, a senior BJP leader had gone public with questions about the source of money to pay for the extravaganza. “I don’t recall you asking me whether the money I gave you to contest the last election was purified with Ganga jal,” Mahajan retorted. No politician asks that question — whether he/she belongs to the Congress, the CPI(M) or the BJP. Others don’t matter.

The rank hypocrisy of our politicians is further highlighted by the fake concern of our Prime Minister who is believed to be “very troubled” by the allegations levelled against IPL and the colourful stories that are being planted in our pliant, unquestioning, ill-informed media by the Congress’s dirty tricks department in the form of ‘startling discoveries’ by the Income Tax Department, the Enforcement Directorate and the Intelligence Bureau implicating not only Mr Lalit K Modi but senior politicians in other parties. It’s a shame and a pity that our libel laws are virtually non-existent and our judiciary entirely indifferent to defamation and political blackmail. It is equally shameful that media houses which thrive on cronyism should cavil at crony capitalism, but for which they would have been languishing. More to the point, our limp-wristed Prime Minister was nowhere near being as “troubled” as he is today when his Government subverted the law to exonerate Ottavio Quattrocchi. On the contrary, he thought it was a “shame” that the obnoxious Italian wheeler-dealer was charged with and prosecuted for stealing India’s money.

[This appeared as my Sunday column, Coffee Break, in The Pioneer on April 25, 2010. For other articles, see archive.]

*Visual courtesy The Telegraph.


Unknown said...

Very nicely writtedn DADA,

You hv torn into politicians as a hungry lion approaches a sheep

greatly written

Anonymous said...

Interesting tidbit on Pramod Mahajan.

As much as there is hypocrisy in the political class' reactions there is a legitimate case of public interest. It would have been good if the IPL had voluntarily setup an independent probe with individuals of impeccable credibility.

JessS said...

It's simple. All these politicians are angry because they did not get a piece of the IPL pie. They are not outraged at the corruption, they are outraged that they were not invited to the party. Because that's how things work in India an how dare IPL cut them out!

The Comic Project said...

Distract the public and one can get away with almost anything. Politicians seem to be moving towards using our over-obsession with Cricket as a show of power and means of distraction, not unlike the use of games and gladiators in another era. Sad.

Every bidder and Lalit Modi himself has received direct or indirect political patronage. With such high stakes, it was only natural that IPL became far more important than other pressing issues. At best, this will end up in political IOUs to be cashed at a later date. And another TV debate.

Raja Mitra said...

Excellently written.
For more details on 'New India's' erstwhile poster boy and other details on IPL, check out the link below.

Oldtimer said...

Journos who were singing Modi's praise only weeks ago are now doing hatchet jobs on him; orders from the top I believe.

The crooks vs crooks sagas become routine whenever a Congress govt is firmly entrenched in power -- because fights for the spoils become no-holds-barred affairs in the absence of threat to power positions.

Priyanka said...

True But are we ever gng to see an end of this... Lalit Modi gone.. However, what about the big boys of the game

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Raja Mitra said...

When the hitman has been outed, the capo will remove him from the scene, literally or figuratively. Modi I am sure knew the score when he took on the job. However the capo then maintain low profile for a while before anointing new sicari.
Welcome to the world of Godfather IV, Indian edition.

M. Patil said...


I don't understand why you think IPL is business as usual. This benami money comming to India is serious, it has national security implications.

"It is evident that India requires a JPC, not just on IPL but on tax havens as a whole. It needs to get at the bottom of how our stock markets continue to be manipulated through PNs. We need to unearth the link between big business houses, Bollywood, and the underworld, as well as real estate and money laundering. We need to explore the link between our politicians and terror funding.

Over the past few years, several prominent Indian business houses have faked foreign investment or couched their ill-gotten wealth as FII investment by routing their own money through tax havens. The Securities and Exchange Board of India, RBI, ED and tax authorities are seemingly ineffective when it comes to tackling these issues.

Similarly, the source of money for NGOs and funding for our political parties too should be probed. Several criminals in India get away for want of appropriate investigation. Therefore, a JPC to probe into the role of tax havens and its impact on the entire Indian economy would be in order."

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Thanks, Sir. Here's my take on Lalit Modi, my hero:

Nationalist said...

Dada, heard the song, did not understand much except that 'Nutan' means new. But the song was heart rending and had great beauty to it. Sad Gurudev could not live for ever. He surely was a Vishnu avatar.