All Out

Is the Indian Premiere League (IPL) just about cricket? The answer is  positively ‘No’. There is more entertainment and business to it than cricket. A lot of controversies, related to it, are doing the rounds. The latest one involves the Nationalist Congress Party’s chief and agriculture minister, Sharad Pawar. The minister claimed to have assets worth Rs3.6 crore. Until recently it was found that the Pawars are 16 per cent owners of an IPL bid.

Sharad Pawar, his wife Pratibha Pawar, and daughter Supriya Sule, are 100 per cent owners of two companies: Lap Finance Consultancy and Namratta Film Enterprises. City Corporation is a Pune-based construction company, with Anirudhha Deshpande as its Managing Director. The company was the fifth bidder for the second round of IPL franchises. It had bid Rs 1,176 crore for the Pune franchise in March, 2010, but lost out to Sahara’s wining bid of Rs 1,702 crore. Documents reveal that Lap Finance Consultancy and Namratta Film Enterprises hold 25.6 lakh and 8 lakh equity shares, respectively, in City Corporation. Thus, the Pawars own a total of 33.6 lakh equity shares (out of 2.07 crore shares), or 16.22 per cent stake in City Corp.

Sule claimed that Deshpande bid in his ‘personal capacity’ and it had nothing to do with the company. She said that the company board passed a resolution saying it would have nothing to do with the bid, and that nobody supported it. How can a board resolution  possibly be passed without the consent and say of all the members? The family even went on to say that all this was a media creation. Soon enough the BJP demanded Pawar’s resignation and said that he had “misled the nation.” The Congress, instead of defending, distanced itself from him. Now we know who his true supporters are, or should we say, are not. The Pawars had been discreet about the matter for too long, and the truth had to come out.

Excerpts from the meeting of the board of directors of City Corp, held on 31st January, 2010, clearly reveals that the bid had taken place on behalf of the company’s authorization. Pawar then admitted that he had a small stake in the Bangalore IPL franchise. This is how Baramati Grape Industries Ltd amalgamated with Vijay Mallya’s United Spirits Ltd (USL), in 2006. Ajit Pawar (Sharad Pawar’s nephew) and Lap Finance have 10,000 and 9,000 shares, respectively, in Baramati Grape. Collectively, the Pawars hold around 51,150 shares in USL. USL is a 100 per cent  owner of Royal Challengers Sports Pvt. Ltd., which owns the Royal Challengers Bangalore IPL franchise.

The facts are out. The game has turned into dirty business. Politicians are as corrupt as ever. True cricket is lost somewhere in the midst of all this. Sharad Pawar, once the Chairman of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), seems to be swaying away from his responsibilities. The NCP maintains that he is still very much a part of the party.

Moral of the story – Be secretive, make money, and walk away clean. Rajdeep Sardesai very correctly pointed out that, Shashi Tharoor had to resign because of impropriety but, Sharad Pawar is guilty of illegality.

Cricket has had to deal with many wrong deeds – match fixing, resentment among players, use of drugs, and now this fiasco. IPL might have changed the face of Indian cricket but, is it truly beneficial to cricket as a sport? Lalit Modi, the Chairman of the IPL, has himself been part of the hullabaloo.

The IPL can be viewed more as a money-making process than anything else. It lacks transparency – things happen behind closed doors. It’s about time proper norms are put in place and those guilty, be punished. If the focus is being taken away from test cricket and one day internationals, it better be for something more meaningful.

Roohi Mahapatra

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