The entry of politicians in sports bodies has been an occurrence that not many approve of. Be it the glamour or financial pull of these associations, political involvement in sporting bodies has been a regular occurrence. In recent years, the spate of irregularities, especially in the Indian cricket Board has meant officials with political leanings come under extra scrutiny.
The Supreme Court’s decision to implement the Lodha panel recommendation to bar ministers and bureaucrats from holding posts in the BCCI has come as major development that has the potential to snap the trend.
The decision is likely to alter cricket administration as we know it, and could form a precedent for future appointments across sports bodies around the country.
Even as Indian cricket comes to terms with the fall out of the SC verdict, it is a good time for us fans to revisit the politicians in sports administration quandary and wonder if all politicians misuse the power, in this case the power to govern a sport in a country, whose citizens deem it to be more akin to religion.
While it is easy to paint all politicians with the same brush of skepticism, there have been a few instances when the political class has done more good than wrong. Entering when associations were not flush with cash and little glamour in sports administration, a few politicians did in fact lay the base for that association’s financial rise.
In 1972, under the leadership of then Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) president SK Wankhede who was also the Speaker of the Maharashtra state assembly at the time, the state association began development of a stadium, later named the Wankhede stadium.
Earlier, matches were staged at the Cricket Club India (CCI), to whom MCA would pay a hefty rent. The construction of the Wankhede stadium, gave MCA an independent financial standing.
The entry of Sharad Pawar as president of the association in the 90s helped it grow further as Pawar, led the execution of more infrastructure projects. Pawar facilitated the availability of two more grounds in Mumbai for the MCA. Of which, on one stands the indoor academy, that has proved beneficial for many Mumbai and India cricketers.
In the 1980s Madhya Pradesh cricket too saw a slew of improvements under the leadership of the Madhavrao Scindia, the maharaja of Gwalior who later became minister from the Congress Party.
Scindia proved to be the architect of development of the sport in the region, even as the association was struggling financially.
Current BCCI president Anurag Thakur, who is also an MP with the Bhartiya Janata Party, too has played a role in bringing international cricket to the hilltop town of Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh. “If politicians can run the country, they can run sports bodies,” Thakur had said earlier this year.
There are a few instances in cricket that show such generalisations to be overly forceful.
The controversy surrounding political leader Suresh Kalmadi during the 2010 Commonwealth Games, is a good case study to analyse the opposite end of the spectrum.
Only time will tell if the ruling made by the SC will have an impact on the game. Till then one will have to wait and watch a cricket body headed by a politician, try an implement the recommendations approved by the Apex court,, which are primarily aimed to curtail its powers.