‘Twittergate’ (as the recent Shashi Tharoor–Lalit Modi cricket controversy is being called) has opened a can of worms in Indian cricket. IPL Chairman Lalit Modi alleged Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor had influenced the Kochi bid and raised questions about Sunanda Pushkar, Tharoor’s ‘girlfriend,’ being given free equity worth Rs. 70 crores ($15.8 million).
In response, Tharoor has alleged Modi wanted to edge the Kochi team out to hand it to a powerful consortium of wealthy industrialists in Gujarat. The Kochi consortium members even came out to say that Modi had offered them $50 million dollars to withdraw their bid. And, as a hungry media swooped in craving details of this story, many glaring ‘skeletons’ have tumbled out of the closet. There are reports that several of the existing eight IPL franchisees are owned by relatives of Modi, a clear indication that the mega-rich cricket league is enriching a cosy group of people.
The Income Tax Ministry questioned Modi and visited IPL’s offices in Mumbai to see what’s really going on. There are suggestions that senior politicians are involved in the IPL, which has certainly been tainted (an interesting article on this was written by one of India’s best-known cricket commentators, in which he talks about the way the sport is suffering over this) by some murky dealings.
The Board for Control for Cricket in India is holding a special council meeting to discuss what’s going on, although cricket commentators say none of this could have possibly happened without the willing sanction of Lalit Modi. Lalit Modi must be regretting the first Tweet he sent out against Tharoor. But, it’s the one thing we can thank him for. As the IPL occupied the national centre stage and provided a genuine forum for entertainment for millions around the world, it had become inconvenient and unnecessary to ask questions about the tall claims its functionaries regularly made. In a strange way, Modi, who has to be given credit for designing the IPL, is probably the reason it will get better as well. It’s probably an unintentional outcome from his point of view, but a very welcome one for the rest of India.