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Sports, politics, prestige and power: the struggle over the new bill September 30, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Stoddart, Brian , comments closed

Brian Stoddart

While Suresh Kalamadi and colleagues sit it out in Tihar jail, awaiting results of their post-Commonwealth Games charges, Sports Minister Ajay Maken is struggling to gain acceptance for his Bill that would reform India’s sports management and administration, one measure against many to counter both the suggestions of corruption and international criticism. This is no simple matter. An earlier attempt, before the full catastrophe of the Games emerged, was roundly defeated as several Government Ministers including Kalmadi and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar (better known as the Chair of the International Cricket Council and former President of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI)).

One of the central issues this time round is that Maken – a Delhi man with a trades union background – wants all sports bodies in India to be subject to the Right To Information (RTI legislation). This is being fought bitterly by many if not most of the sports bodies, and principally by the now extremely cashed up BCCI. Automatically, that leads many to think that the opposition emerges from the need not to have all or certain information emerge to full public scrutiny. The push for the RTI angle comes obviously in the Games’ aftermath amidst the revelations of alleged kickbacks, preferential tendering, bogus tenders and invoices, tampered bids and all the rest, but why the ferocious attempts to prevent the measure.

A good deal of this comes from the complex and intertwined social, financial, business and political roles played by leading sports administrators, as the cricket case reveals.


India’s image problem: organisation and transparency February 27, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Stoddart, Brian , comments closed

Brian Stoddart

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh must wonder what he has done to deserve the current concatenation of circumstances putting his government and country in such a poor light for overseas observers mesmerised by the “new India” but unused to its complexities. Having over the past few months been further and energetically courted by Sarkozy, Cameron, Obama and a string of other world leaders (but not Australia, at a time when it counts), within just a few weeks organisational glitches, old and new, have combined to undermine confidence in India’s ability “to do things”, at least in the way that the outsiders might expect.

The Commonwealth Games fiasco will just not go away.  While CWG boss Suresh Kalmadi has now been largely isolated politically, he has still not been charged with any formal offences, unlike his two main operatives. They have already appeared in court accused of graft in the letting of a timekeeping contract to a Swiss company.  As the revelations from this become public, the picture will likely become ugly, because there are inevitable political and civil administration links with a wide range of companies that gained contracts under profitable conditions.  Many such links have already been revealed by journalists -they remain to be proven in court, of course, but the image of the “great” Games is taking a drubbing.

There were, for example, a myriad of Kalmadi/CWG jokes.  One of the best was an anagram of Suresh Kalmadi: “Sir, u made lakhs”!

The concern all along was that the murky side of official contracting undertaken with public money might become too revealed via the CWG investigations, but the government was under such pressure on the matter from NGOs, opposition figures like Arun Jaitley and international agencies that it could not ignore the calls for investigation.  There will be nervous moments for a good many officials and others as the court cases line up and tell their stories.


Pakistan, India and the World Cup February 9, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Pakistan, Stoddart, Brian , comments closed

Brian Stoddart

Just days out from the start of this year’s cricket World Cup in the subcontinent, Pakistan’s reputation has taken another beating. Last Saturday the International Cricket Council’s independent tribunal confirmed its belief that Pakistani players were again involved in match-fixing engineered by illegal gambling connections. The case arose from revelations late last year that during the Lords test match in which Pakistan was involved, there was evidence that in return for payment, Pakistani bowlers delivered deliberate “no balls” as part of a spot betting scam. The then captain Salman Butt has now been banned for 10 years with 5 suspended, Mohammad Asif 7 with 2 suspended and Mohammad Aamir 5 years. This last is a particular blow because Aamir had emerged as one of the world’s great young talents.

Adding complication, the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service a day earlier announced it believed it had enough evidence to warrant the laying of criminal charges over the matter, and the players have been detailed off to appear voluntarily in Westminster court in a few weeks, or be extradited.

There will be some twists yet, though. The players have immediately announced that they will appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport based in Switzerland with Aamir, interestingly, reportedly saying he had not expected such a severe penalty – that suggests, of course, he expected a penalty which, in turn, suggests substance to the claims and charges. That both fits but contradicts other reports from Pakistan that Michael Beloff, QC, the head of the ICC panel, thought the evidence underdone and was unhappy with the numbers of years that had to be handed out under the “minimum penalty” provisions. Beloff, son of Lord Max Beloff the historian and political scientist, and himself former President of Trinity Oxford, is also a key member of the Court for Arbitration for Sport, so complexities and networks abound.

All this has reverberations for cricket in several respects, but two in particular are important.


John Howard and Australia: India and the World July 6, 2010

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Stoddart, Brian , comments closed

Brian Stoddart

At three levels the current brouhaha surrounding John Howard’s ‘loss’ of the Vice-Presidency within the International Cricket Council curiously, some might say peculiarly, attests to the superficiality of understanding about the workings of the machine.

Cricket itself provides the first level, because the affair has raised the old debate about the mix between sport and politics.  Howard and his supporters argue that the main players in the ICC and its constituent bodies are ‘politicised’ in that they contain current politicians.  India is the clear target here.  Yet Howard himself pointed to his political career and background as a major reason as to why he would have been a good person for the position.  The double standard stands confirmed when it is remembered that Howard’s nomination for the position from Australia and New Zealand emerged only after what was a formal arbitration/selection process chaired by Sir Rod Eddington who seems magically connected to all sides of the political prism (and who also played cricket for UWA and Oxford).  That was a tight contest with Eddington reportedly saying that the only difference between Howard and his opponent, Sir John Anderson of New Zealand, was that the former Prime Minister had “more time” for the task.  It is clear that had Anderson prevailed he would have walked into the Vice-President’s position, and that Howard’s political background has proved a stumbling block. (more…)

“New” India, “Old” Politics: Business, Governance and the IPL June 7, 2010

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Stoddart, Brian , comments closed

Brian Stoddart

One of the late Warren Zevon’s greatest songs was entitled “Lawyers, Guns and Money”, suggesting that the intersection between force/authority, finance and governance would determine most contretemps either officially or otherwise.  There might be some now in India reflecting that Zevon was not entirely wrong when it comes to cricket, business and politics.

When we left the Indian Premier League (IPL) a few weeks ago its Commissioner was stood down but threatening to “spill the beans”, the tax authorities were investigating the league and its franchises, the UPA was forced to dump a junior Minister, several other Ministers were ducking and weaving along with some prominent industrialists and film stars, while mere players were wondering about their next season pay packets.

As always happens, the media coverage went quiet with focus shifting to matters like the new dialogue with the USA, rising security concerns, another bout of nuclear capability banter with Pakistan, on-going Naxalite challenges, and rising political issues in Jharkhand and elsewhere.

The IPL issue has quietly developed though, with the tax authorities raising serious concerns about several matters, and just in the past few days some further issues relating to politicians and their possible business deals have refreshed attention.  At this point, though, while the IPL details are interesting enough the principles they raise are probably more important.

In particular, this simple cricket competition has produced serious questions about the intersection of business and politics, the so-called “club” commented upon by several commentators in recent years.  As a subset, that in turn raises questions about the efficacy or otherwise of several political figures and the parties to which they belong.

An easy starting point here is with Shared Pawar, Union Minister for Agriculture.  He is about to become President of the International Cricket Council, capping his career as President of the Maharashtra Cricket Association and of the Board of Control for Cricket in India where his most famous public role was in his ousting of Jagmohan Dalmiya, the Bengal cricket boss and industrialist responsible for making India the cricket power it is now. At the same time, of course, Pawar traversed through being Chief Minister of Maharashtra and then, in 1999, after being expelled from Congress for trashing Sonia Gandhi as a foreigner, becoming leader of the new National Congress Party (NCP).  Politics being politics, the Congress need the NCP support to form the new UPA government and Pawar was back in favour – well, almost, because the Gandhi clan never forgave him, so that all negotiations there were effectively via intermediaries.

The “old” politics require networks, of course, and Pawar has those perfected.  While he himself in official returns shows minimal assets by most standards, he is long rumoured to have much bigger holdings particularly by way of various land deals in his home state (especially around Pune) and elsewhere, some at least of which have been to subject of legal proceedings.  Some of those rumours are reinforced directly and indirectly through his networks.  For example, his cricket successor in Maharashtra, Vidarbha specifically and now at the BCCI is Shashank Manohar, whose father was Advocate-General during Pawar’s Chief Ministership.  He was effectively Pawar’s handpicked replacement. (more…)

Shashi Tharoor’s ‘new India': Foreign policy, citizen engagement and new media April 30, 2010

Posted by southasiamasala in : Dash, Kamala Kanta, India , comments closed

Kamala Kanta Dash

Thanks for all the support & good wishes. U folks are the New India. We will “be the change” we wish to see in our country. But not without pain! (Posted on Twitter, 16 April 2010)

This message is from Dr Shashi’s Tharoor’s twitter after he got embroiled in a controversy over allegedly using his public office for private gain by possibly using his ‘good friend’ Ms. Sunanda Pushkar as a shadow bidder/shareholder for the Kochi (Kerala) team in the cash rich Twenty-20 cricket tournament of Indian Premier League (IPL).

Dr Tharoor is a former Junior Minister in the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India a former UN Under-Secretary General for Communications and Public Information and a PhD from Fletcher School Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, USA. In this (twitter) post he introduced his idea of New India, referring to his followers with whom he has built a strong relationship of sharing information on his official activities and personal opinion on many issues. Tharoor has, in the meantime, resigned from his post as a junior minister in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) after requesting the Prime Minster to conduct a thorough enquiry to find out details of his involvement and other financial irregularities. Tharoor has defended his decision to support the Kochi (Kerala) team and has made it clear that he mentored the team and did not support for any personal monetary benefit. He defended his position in the parliament by saying ‘my conscience is clear and I have done nothing improper or unethical, less alone illegal.’ Many analysts in India and overseas feel that Tharoor has been made a sacrificial lamb in the IPL controversy. (more…)

Cricket, money and politics April 27, 2010

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Stoddart, Brian , comments closed

Brian Stoddard

Chennai Super Kings might have beaten the more fancied Mumbai Indians in the final of the Indian Premier League (IPL), but the match was a sideshow to the real battles now faced by cricket bosses, industrial barons, political leaders and even movie stars.

The problems began just a few short weeks ago with the auctioning of two new franchises in what had become the IPL money-mill.  A consortium bidding $333 million to have Kochi in Kerala host a team was successful. Shortly after Lalit Modi, the IPL Commissioner, posted a note on his Twitter site that the bid was flawed, and that the flaws were associated with junior External Affairs Minister Shashi Tharoor, the former UN diplomat and prominent writer who was already struggling in his post. Tharoor struck back with the suggestion Modi wanted the Kochi bid voided so that his more favoured Ahmedabad franchise might then slip in. (more…)

Sport and security: India’s year of living dangerously. March 17, 2010

Posted by southasiamasala in : Gordon, Sandy, India, Pakistan , comments closed

Sandy Gordon

India is a rising economic star and also wants to be a world venue for major sporting events.  But violent jihadi groups have a strong incentive to undermine that image.  New Delhi’s Dayal Chand National Stadium, with its glistening new astro-turf, was therefore in complete lockdown for the opening of the Hockey World Cup.  Security was so tight that the President of the Federation of International Hockey, Leandro Negre, was stopped and searched.  Players were confined to their hotels when not playing or training and heavily escorted between venues.  As it transpired, the two weeks of competition went without a hitch from the security point of view.  (And for the record, Australia won).

New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru stadium