By Sanjay Jha
It was bound to happen, the inevitable repercussion of mounting superciliousness and power-obsession combined in a toxic tonic. The IPL Commissioner Lalit Modi has, as is his customary practise, indulged in another provocative transgression this time dragging down the equally controversial and high profile Congressman MOS for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor. The murky money-making machinery of IPL has just received some more greased lightning. The apparently treacherous terrain befuddling Mr Modi’s slippery feet and causing him anguished nightmares is, WHO are the mysterious owners of the new IPL franchise in Kochi, Kerala, in particular a certain woman named Sunanda Pushkar ? Modi is perceptibly infuriated that Tharoor asked him not to circulate her credentials as a promoter. Modi is miffed. Modi sniffs a mouse lurking around . Modi does not like being told what to do. So he does what Tharoor so far thought was his own masterful domain, his own monopoly strategy for all sensitive situations— he Twittered.
But to address this evidently controversial subject we have to start from the very beginning, by asking Mr Modi himself some pertinent questions:
1. Can we have the list of all potential franchise bidders for the first round of IPL in Y 2008? We know who finally triumphed but what was the second best bid after Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance offer? By whom? Who were the first-round losers and by how much? How come Vijay Mallya retained his personal Banglaore turf and who did he pip to the supposedly “lucrative” ownership ? IPL needs to disclose the exact details (particularly now), or else, it can be happily concluded that this was finally only a privately held caviar, champagne and cappuccino deal, a convenient meeting of a well-orchestrated cartel group done in secret, violating all norms of transparency and proper procedure. Modi is obliged to do so in the same ” public interest” as his current investigation of the Kochi franchise compels him to do an IPO on Tharoor.
2. Can we have full disclosures of all stakeholders, irrespective of percentages, including names of fronting companies and “related parties”? Rumors have circulated fast and furious that there are many sleeping partners who have covert ownerships, hence the highly-staged valuation razzmatazz. Who are the several beneficiaries lying low behind Bollywood glamour et al?
3. How come a BCCI official was allowed to bid for Chennai which is a flagrant contravention of basic ethical standards? At least in that case, the owners of India Cements should have resigned from the BCCI to avoid a palpable conflict of interest. If cross-holdings involve BCCI/IPL officials then we can all safely assume that we have a humongous conflict for which Modi needs to offer us all ” public” a categorical explanation. We are waiting, Mr Modi.
4. How can the IPL commissioner actually discuss confidential matters citing ownerships, naming stakeholders personally and indulge in a calculated ploy to create speculation through penning trite lines on Twitter? It is bizarre. This had prima-facie nothing to do with the world at large (albeit Modi tries to sound so-self-righteous) so what is Modi’s real motive in raising it deliberately to attract and escalate media attention and involve the aam junta in his proposed political games?
5. Incidentally, who is Modi to question Kochi’s decision to give equity holding to anyone that they deem fit ? How is that relevant ? Will Modi question Ambani if he decides to offer part of his Mumbai Indian shares to Lady Gaga or Shah Rukh Khan makes Salman Khan a partner in KKR a-la- gratis ? Thus, is Modi playing another manipulative game with some ulterior motives?
6. Can Mr Modi explain his ” professionalism” in taking autocratic decisions without even consulting his own IPL governing council as alleged by the BCCI chief Shashank Manohar himself? Is that the way the much-haloed IPL enterprise should be run?
7. In fact, there is basic lack of due diligence right at the bidding stage itself by IPL which manifests it’s glaring incompetence. Rudimentary prudence demands that they should have obtained full disclosures of all financial investors and board of directors even before handing out the franchise ownership. Why now? And in any case, unless the new owners have serious issues of criminal misconduct , anti-national activities ,committed severe financial impropriety or attempted fraud , why should Modi have an objection? Because the lady concerned, a co-owner of the franchise, is a beautician who might be marrying Tharoor?
8. The attempt to draw in Tharoor is clearly vitiated, notwithstanding Tharoor’s inborn penchant for courting sporadic trouble. But Mr Modi, why does Tharoor’s private relationships and their monetary quotient require such a motivated exposure?
9. There are many who believe that Modi wanted the Ahmedabad franchisee to scrape through , hence the belated attempt at skullduggery. Do I see a Modi and Modi connection somewhere, a lurking shadow of mutual convenience lingering on to the sacrosanct 22 yard pitch now converted into a goldmine ? At the cost of stretching this soap-opera has the Sangh Parivaar got a member with a bigger game-plan?
Your guess is as good as mine.