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.