The fall of high-flying cricket administrator Lalit Modi in Rajasthan

  • Urvashi Dev Rawal, Hindustan Times, Jaipur
  • Updated: Jun 16, 2015 04:38 IST

At the peak of his influence, Lalit Modi was more than just a high-flying cricket administrator. Even before the IPL extravaganza got rolling in 2008, he was the go-to guy for Rajasthan politicians, power brokers and the who's who of everything from showbiz to big business.

The controversy over the undue favours he allegedly obtained from external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj may be the latest chapter in Modi's chequered public life but the man has been no stranger to power plays or back-room politics.

As president of the Rajasthan Cricket Association (RCA) during the chief ministerial tenure of Vasundhara Raje from 2003 to 2008, Modi virtually called the shots on all things important in the state. So much so, state bureaucrats allegedly visited Modi regularly at a plush hotel where he stayed to discuss matters of state.

Claiming that Modi used to fix deals at Raje's behest, former chief minister Ashok Gehlot had alleged that government officials used to take files for clearance to Modi.

But, what even his fiercest critics could not argue against was Modi's success in raising Rajasthan's profile in the world of top-flight cricket. As the RCA boss from 2005 to 2009, he got big-ticket matches to the state. The Sawai Man Singh stadium was refurbished into a world-class venue, a cricket academy was set up and training facilities improved.

The suave and flamboyant, if somewhat arrogant, cricket administrator was known to deploy his sharp business acumen in running the game, leaving the RCA flush with funds and a new sense of purpose.

Incidents such as one where he allegedly humiliated a father-son duo of IPS officers at an IPL match in Jaipur only seemed to add to his aura as someone untouchable by the law-enforcement powers that be.

However, by and by, this proximity earned the BJP and Raje a bad name. The equation soured publicly when in the run-up to the Rajasthan assembly elections in December 2013, Modi tweeted against a senior BJP leader (now a Union minister) and some Raje aides, alleging that they were selling party tickets.

The tweets lent ample ammunition to the Opposition to target Raje, who chose to remain silent on the matter.

When Raje became chief minister again in 2013, Modi might have expected a smooth sail back into the RCA but his honeymoon proved short-lived.

Modi was re-elected RCA president after a Supreme Court-monitored election in May 2014 but was soon ousted. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) suspended the state cricket body and withdrew its IPL matches and all financial assistance.

In a coup of sorts, RCA vice-president Amin Pathan passed a motion of no-confidence against Modi with the support of 23 of 33 district cricket associations in October 2014. Many alleged that the move was executed at the behest of Raje, who was in Singapore at the time.

The Modi faction went to court, which directed the no-confidence motion be conducted again as it was not held as per rules. On March 9, 2015, another no-confidence motion was moved and passed 17-1 against Modi.

That was again challenged by the Modi faction, saying its supporters were not allowed to reach the voting venue. The case is on and the next hearing is on July 9. In the meantime, the court has appointed the sports council chairman as caretaker of the RCA.

Modi said on Twitter that Raje had ensured unfair voting and he would go after her government.

Pathan, also the BJP's minority wing president in the state, says what he did was in the interest of cricket and there was no government interference.

"After his election, Modi promised the RCA that he would soon be back in India as the BJP was in power in the state and the Centre. We requested him that he should return as cricket in the state was suffering. He kept promising to come back but nothing happened," says Pathan.

Eventually, the BCCI took away matches from Rajasthan and Rs 28 crore in funding to the state association was stopped. "We asked him to step down and nominate someone else as president but he only got angry with us," says Pathan.


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