Union Home Minister P Chidambaram on Monday dismissed "unwarranted" criticism of the government's security concerns about the IPL, telling organisers to respect state governments’ judgement and the opposition to stop playing politics over it.
But Chidambaram, who sought to silence his detractors after the IPL announced on Sunday of its decision to shift the matches abroad, reserved his harshest comments for Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi who had made the "most provocative comment" that holding the IPL matches abroad a "national shame".
"What is a national shame? Most people in India think that the Gujarat communal riots of 2002 were a national shame," Chidambaram said, reading out from a three-page statement that made it clear that the political slugfest over the IPL would continue through the election season.
The first indicator came early in the day. BJP general secretary Arun Jaitley said the IPL's decision to shift the matches abroad gave an impression that India, like Pakistan, had become an unsafe sporting venue.
Chidambaram was quick to hit back, saying Jaitley, who also wears the cap of the president of Delhi District Cricket Association, was known to exaggerate but this time had gone overboard.
"Perhaps he has forgotten that several leaders of the NDA have also expressed the view that the schedule of the IPL should be postponed until after the elections," he said, pointing that even Karnataka — a BJP ruled state — agreed to allow the matches only after the IPL agreed to slot matches after elections in the state.
“Chief Ministers are not backroom wizards; they have to take frontline responsibility for providing security. The central government has to respect their judgment,” he said.
Chidambaram said only Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Punjab and Chandigarh had responded. Chidambaram, who had dropped hints that the organisers too hadn't played straight through the past three weeks, also made it clear that IPL wasn't just about a game but big bucks too.
“It appears that IPL is more than a game. It is a shrewd combination of sport and business. There is no reason to add politics to this combination,” he said.