Why Congress has no business raising a stink on #SwarajForLalit

Just like a grenade which sometimes takes a long time to go off, the IPL scam involving its former chairman Lalit Modi has also exploded now with its splinters falling on Union external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj.

 |  5-minute read |   17-06-2015
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Just like the 2G spectrum, coal block allocation, Commonwealth Games, Adarsh housing society and all other small and big scams, even the Indian Premier League (IPL) mess happened during the previous Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the Centre. Only the skeletons have started falling out of the closet now under Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government. Just like a grenade which sometimes takes a long time to go off, the IPL scam involving its former chairman Lalit Modi has also exploded now with its splinters unfairly falling on Union external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj.

Wasn't the IPL scam the making of the ministers in the UPA government or those in the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) office-bearers owing allegiance to them? Shashi Tharoor was forced to resign as the minister of state for external affairs in the Manmohan Singh government on April 19, 2010 after it came to light that his late wife Sunanda Pushkar, who was then his friend, got sweat equity of the value of Rs 70 crore in Rendezvous Sports World (RSW) which headed the consortium that owned the Kochi team.

The revelation was made by Lalit Modi because he was being hounded by the UPA regime for taking IPL "season two" to South Africa in 2009 because the dates were clashing with the Lok Sabha elections. Then home minister P Chidambaram apparently did not want the IPL to be played out of India because it presented the security perception of India in a poor light. Instead, the government wanted the IPL dates to be adjusted. On the other hand, Lalit Modi took IPL away to South Africa because the Centre expressed its inability to provide security for the players and the game due to the elections.

Several cases of hanky-panky came to light in the South Africa season and the government ordered probe into it. In retaliation, Lalit Modi revealed the impropriety of Tharoor, which led to the latter's ouster from the government. It was a major embarrassment for the Congress and it went after Lalit Modi with vengeance.

Just four days after Tharoor resigned, Swaraj demanded a serious probe into the IPL scams by a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) to go into the truth of the matter. Making a speech as the leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha on April 23, 2010, she alleged that two senior ministers of the UPA were suspected of involvement in the scams by receiving kickbacks and misusing their post. She expressed apprehension that the government agencies would not be able to freely probe the matter as the UPA was worried about saving the alliance government. She said even Tharoor had demanded investigation into the matter.

When the IPL scams had taken place, the UPA leaders at the Centre were at the helm of BCCI and IPL affairs or the state cricket boards. No wonder then, they are either mum on the latest controversy or have supported Swaraj. Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) supremo Sharad Pawar, then a cabinet minister, had served his term as BCCI president from 2005 to 2008 and had gone on to become the International Cricket Council chairman in July 1, 2010. Former Union minister of state Rajeev Shukla had resigned as IPL chairman in 2013 after a betting and spot-fixing scandal. Despite that, he returned to the post this year. He is also a former vice-president of BCCI. Similarly, former Union ministers CP Joshi and Jyotiraditya Scindia and even UPA alliance partners like Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) president Lalu Prasad and Farooq Abdullah of the National Conference are either holding the president's post or had held it in the past in their respective states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Jammu and Kashmir.

It is just the Congress which has raised the Swaraj row. Having failed to get the support of her alliance partners, the party stands isolated. It is the same reason why the issue is unlikely to see sparks in the forthcoming monsoon session of the Parliament.

Though finance minister Arun Jaitley has backed Swaraj, in a turn of events, he finds himself on the same page as Chidambaram because both are opposed to Lalit Modi due to the cricket politics. In a way, cricket has got deeply intermingled with politics. Whether it was the Enforcement Directorate (ED) probe under Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) to investigate Rs 425 crore deal for TV rights, or the blue corner or light blue corner notice issued against Lalit Modi or he leaving India, everything happened during the UPA regime.

Swaraj has been helping people out in times of crisis, be it in Yemen or in Nepal or anywhere else. She personally responds to messages on her Twitter handle. When Lalit Modi wanted to visit Portugal for his wife's treatment, the British authorities were not giving him travel documents fearing it could spoil Indo-UK relations. "Taking a humanitarian view, I conveyed to the British High Commissioner that British Government should examine the request of Lalit Modi as per British rules and regulations. If the British Government chooses to give travel documents to Lalit Modi - that will not spoil our bilateral relations," Swaraj said in her Twitter message on June 14. (Italics mine)

The external affairs minister has family terms with Lalit Modi and so have people like Pawar and others. Is Lalit Modi seen only with Swaraj and her daughter in pictures? There are pictures of Modi with politicians cutting across party lines. Does it prove that all of them have some secret and illegal dealings with him?

With the Congress having pushed to the background after its decimation in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, it is desperate to raise issues to remain relevant in Indian politics. And what better than to exploit a situation like this, even though the situation is of their making.


Kumar Shakti Shekhar Kumar Shakti Shekhar @shaktishekhar

Delhi-based journalist with more than 20 years of experience in reporting for print, TV & digital media.

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