The knives are out against Lalit Modi. Some senior Indian cricket board officials who are at loggerheads with Modi over the way he is running the affairs of the Indian Premier League (IPL) are planning to ease him out, say well placed sources.
His position has also become shaky as Sharad Pawar too withdrew his support to the beleaguered IPL chief, according to media reports.
A report on CNN-IBN website says that Pawar reportedly explained to Modi that he (Modi) is in a "difficult situation" over the controversy surrounding the IPL.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is also going to convene a special annual general meeting to force Modi to step if he does not put in his papers on Tuesday, the report said.
After the new IPL franchise Kochi threw up the murkier side of the auctioning of the city teams, leading to its "mentor" and minister of state for external affairs Shashi Tharoor's exit from the council of ministers, and demands in parliament for a probe into the alleged betting and money-laundering in the Twenty20 tournament, Modi appears to have been boxed into a corner.
If some of Modi's opponents have their way they will attack him at the IPL governing council meeting on April 25 when he is expected to explain his side of the Kochi imbroglio.
"After what union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said about the IPL and seeing the MPs' anger, propriety demands that Modi should go, at least till he gets his name cleared," a cricket board member said not wanting to be named.
The BCCI officials are unhappy that its fair name has been besmirched by the high-profile Modi who they say has become a law unto himself, running the IPL as a "cosy independent island."
Modi, who has been deputed by BCCI president Shashank Manohar to attend the ongoing International Cricket Council (ICC) meeting in Dubai, is expected to return late Monday night or Tuesday.
He and his supporters are taking the stand that the IPL general council has been created through a special resolution of the board's special general meeting and it has a term of five years. So, the general council has no powers to ask him to go.
"Modi is busy running the IPL, which is coming to the business end of the third edition. He will reply to all the allegations once he is free from his work," an official close to him said.
The governing council members are divided on the issue with a couple of them staying neutral. Most members look up to union minister and Nationalist Congress Party leader Sharad Pawar, and he is, as of now, in Modi corner.
The board officials are livid with the Kochi happenings and they are finding ways to get rid of Modi. Strictly, he does not represent any state association in the board after being thrown out of the Rajasthan Cricket Association and he attends the board meetings as IPL chairman.
The top board officials are expected to meet IPL franchise owners in Mumbai Friday before the IPL general council meeting and Modi may be kept out of it.
The meeting is expected to decide the fate of Modi and he might even be asked to quit and if he resists taking refuge under technicalities, the board is preparing to call a special general meeting to oust him.
The board's working committee will meet on May 2 to initiate steps to remove Modi from the IPL. The two known opponents of Modi, BCCI President Shashank Manohar and secretary N. Srinivasan, may move a resolution that could either drastically reduce Modi's unbridled powers in the IPL, or could even get rid of him altogether.
The Friday meeting will threadbare discuss all the allegation levelled against Modi, the Kochi affair in particular.
"All the allegations against Modi and some other issues would be discussed in the governing council," said Rajiv Shukla, the BCCI's media and finance committee chairman, in Delhi.
The governing council members are the four BCCI office-bearers, president, secretary N. Srinivasan, treasurer M.P. Pandove and joint secretary Sanjay Jagdale, former board president Inderjit Singh Bindra, union minister and president of Jammu & Kashmir Cricket Association Farooq Abdullah, board vice-president and Delhi and District Cricket Association president Arun Jaitley, board vice-president and president of Baroda association Chirayu Amin, chairman of board's finance and media committee Rajiv Shukla and three former India captains Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, Sunil Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri, besides Modi.
The IPL has turned out to be a major a money-spinner. The eight franchises, sold in a globally televised auction, fetched $640.9 million. The two new franchises added this year made it look like chicken feed as they went for $726.6 million. The television rights were sold for $1 billion for 10 years and this year YoutTube and multiplexes bought the rights to screen the matches live to take the earning to a mind-boggling $4.13 billion.
Removing Modi not easy | Graphics: Turning wicket | See Special