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Pankaj Vohra, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, April 25, 2010
The government appears to be in a dilemma over whether to order a probe into the functioning of the Indian Premier League (IPL) by a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) or allow its agencies to investigate the matter that could have wide-ranging political ramifications. The controversy seems to be leading to a situation where the IPL may make way for a PIL (public interest litigation) given the amount of money that has allegedly changed hands illegally in the name of cricket.

It is only a matter of time before the apex court will have to step in if the credibility of the system has to be restored in the eyes of the people who have been under the spell of the IPL for over a month now.

In the eye of the storm is the IPL tsar Lalit Modi whose alleged murky dealings may open a Pandora’s box that could jeopardise the political future of many top politicians. Shashi Tharoor, the former minister of state for external affairs, has already fallen by the wayside and no one knows who may follow suit.

The entire IPL circus has turned out to be the biggest scam of our times and could expose the ugly nexus among tax evaders, film stars, politicians, cricketers, corporate giants and the underworld. The IPL has also cast a shadow on its parent body, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) that has as its members senior politicians from the NCP, the BJP and the Congress besides some smaller parties. Designed to help develop cricket, the League has got entangled in allegations of gambling, prostitution, match-fixing, money-laundering and tax evasion.

The most difficult problem before the government is that there is no one who is willing to believe that Lalit Modi acted on his own and without the patronage of those in the BCCI in general and the IPL Governing Council in particular. Therefore, for their own sake, in order to absolve themselves of any taint, each member of the IPL Governing Council as well as top cricket bosses would do well if they voluntarily subject themselves to scrutiny by government agencies.

The problem before the government is that a JPC probe may not yield the whole truth, as members of parties associated with those under the scanner are likely to be viewed with suspicion. The JPC will be expected to investigate even those in the government, a task that could lead to the souring of relations between, say, the Congress and the NCP at one level and the Congress and the National Conference on the other. This could have a huge impact on the governments in Maharashtra, J&K and the Centre. The JPC could also prove inconvenient for the BJP, the principal opposition party, since some of its top leaders are seen as those who helped Modi at some stage or have been associated with the conduct of the games.

As people watch the unfolding developments, the government and Parliament’s credibility will take a beating if nothing comes of the probe and the accused get off scot-free. Therefore, if the JPC is approved, its members should be those who have no stakes in cricket and who have a clean public image.

If the apex court gets involved through a PIL or through a presidential reference, the independent probe committee should comprise eminent people who should give their report within a specified period of a month or 45 days. The IPL chapter appears to be the most unfortunate one in the country’s sporting history. It raises questions about the involvement of politicians in cricket administration. The guilty should be brought to book. The probe should not lead to a situation where it undermines the credibility of the government and Parliament in the eyes of the people.