The heat is being turned on the Indian Premier League. Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee informed Lok Sabha on Tuesday that the probe into the funding of the Twenty20 tournament has already started and “no (one) guilty or wrong-doer” will be spared.
"The concerned department has already started the investigation process. All aspects, including sources of funding and routes through which the funds arrived, would be looked into. Appropriate action as per law would be taken,” he said.
<b1>Mukherjee’s assurance came after the Left, BJP, RJD, SP and JD-U slammed the IPL as a “betting and gambling ring” allegedly involving foreign funds, black money and money laundering. Some even sought a complete ban on it. The opposition parties demanded a government takeover of the IPL and a joint parliamentary committee probe into its funding.
The full impact of Mukherjee’s remarks will be felt as the income tax department, Enforcement Directorate and economic intelligence wings unravel what the opposition dubbed murky goings on in the cricketing league body.
Already, the Congress has got Shashi Thaoor to step down as minister of state for external affairs. It has given political clearance to I-T authorities to begin questioning IPL commissioner Lalit Modi.
If pursued seriously, the scope and extent of the probe would automatically widen to cover other IPL associates and partners and their financial dealings, both within and outside the country. And given the close nexus between politics and cricket, the inquiry threatens to lead to other state and national leaders, including perhaps some of the Congress’s own UPA allies.
NCP leader Sharad Pawar is a member of the IPL governing council and is said to be a Modi-supporter.
If the government turns too much heat on Modi, Pawar may resist it. The NCP has eight MPs in the Lok Sabha and any chance of an open hostility with Pawar could affect the UPA coalition.
“How all this will pan out, no one knows. But we are entered into the dangerous game of brinkmanship," said a Congress leader who did not want to be named.
That the issue threatens to touch every party became evident on Tuesday with the BJP being pushed into defending its leader Vasundhara Raje who was chief minister of Rajasthan when the Modi persona emerged on the cricketing horizon in a big way.
"No BJP leader is associated with the IPL...Vasundhara Raje has made no investment in Rajasthan IPL or in any cricket team,” said BJP’s deputy leader in the Lok Sabha Gopinath Munde to a question.