I’ve been baying for an IPL scandal since its inception, but I don’t know how to feel about this one, which has just ensnared first-time Member of Parliament (and one of my favorite authors) Shashi Tharoor. Here’s why I’m conflicted:
First, I don’t understand why it was so controversial to release details on the owners of the Kochi franchise. Granted, it was a bit flippant on Lalit Modi’s part to do so by Twitter, and it’s still unclear whether or not he had a hidden agenda of his own (the Kochi CEO has said Modi offered him a bribe to drop the purchase; Tharoor says Modi didn’t want Kochi to be the base). But it seems utterly ridiculous not to insist that people should know who owns what in an IPL franchise. Right?
Second: So, Modi raises a stink, and the ownership details are revealed. It turns out that one Sunanda Pushkar received a stake in the franchise for free, but it’s not clear why — she says it’s because the franchise wanted her marketing skills; the opposition in Parliament says it’s because she’s “friendly” (an Indian colloquialism for “in a romantic relationship”) with Tharoor. I know this appears like a conflict of interest, but it isn’t actually one. Tharoor has a friend — or lover, whatever — who won a stake in an IPL team. The allegation is that Tharoor somehow influenced things behind the scene to steer business to his friend, but there’s no evidence of that.
So why is this guy — probably the smartest guy in the Indian Cabinet behind Manmohan Singh — resigning? (It’s possible the Congress Party wanted to ditch Tharoor after his many little media-scandals, and simply used this brouhaha as a pretext.)
Finally: there’s my predicament. I don’t like Lalit Modi, but it seems like he did the right thing (though he could have also pushed the other franchises to reveal their stakes to the public). I like Shashi Tharoor, but am saddened he embroiled himself with the likes of Modi (then again, an M.P. should do what he did and try to steer business to his district). I don’t know whom he’s sleeping with, but I’m not sure enough of a case has been made he indulged in a conflict of interest.
The only way to salvage this thing is to push for bigger reforms and more transparency in the IPL and the BCCI. Jayaditya Gupta made this point better than I can on Cricinfo; let’s get the petitions going.