Politics and cricket canserve up a spicy dish
TO SAY don’t mix sports with politics is like asking the waiter to keep the masala out of the tikka . Last week, three cabinet ministers feuded over whether the two should mix or not. When Farooq Abdullah proposed, Sharad Pawar just disposed by allowing the BCCI to disqualify the Services cricket team from this year’s Ranji trophy championships for refusing to play its scheduled match against Jammu & Kashmir in Srinagar. Defence minister A. K. Antony could do nothing but sit back and suffer the ignominy of his men in uniform being humiliated and derided as weak. The damage caused to the reputation of our forces is immeasurable and could have been avoided.
Farooq, we all know is a leader of impeccable patriotic credentials, but in this instance he chose to play politics. The fault lies squarely with the BCCI. An office bearer tells me that the Services team did write to the secretary, BCCI about its inability to play in Srinagar citing security reasons and asked for alternative dates and a change of venue.
When the BCCI sat over it, the Services took it as approval. The Services Sports Control Board ( SSCB) could not have taken the decision to seek alternate venue without the concurrence of the ministry and I understand that inputs from various agencies including military intelligence had advised that the team not play in Srinagar. Pawar being a former defence minister should have known that the forces have their own reasons.
But instead of taking action against erring officials, the BCCI punished the team. Now questions are being raised about the failure of the J& K Cricket Association to construct a modern stadium with proper crowd control and security systems during the last decade. The JKCA has already received over Rs 25 crore from the BCCI and IPL as its share from TV rights. But nobody has a clue where the money has gone. If proper facilities were available at Srinagar or Jammu, this embarrassment could have been avoided. But in the BCCI, it is the vote of each state association that is precious. Security be damned.
MOST of us thought until now that caste labels are important only in politics. It now appears that it is equally important in government, particularly in post retirement sinecures for babus. There is much titter and some heartburn after some recent appointments saw retired babus belonging to the same caste monopolising the membership of a Central commission.
Last week’s appointment of M. L. Tayal, the former principal secretary to Haryana chief minister B. S. Hooda as a member of the Competition Commission ( the successor to the MRTPC) makes the panel virtually the exclusive preserve of the one caste( Vaishya). Most of its current members were chosen when Prem Chand Gupta, another caste mate, was minister for corporate affairs.
The commission is headed by Dhanendra Kumar,( again a Vaishya) who was earlier India’s executive director at the World Bank and has as members H. C. Gupta, former coal secretary and Ratneshwar Prasad, ex- chairman of CBDT and Anurag Goel, former secretary ministry of corporate affairs. All of them are from the same caste and belong to the Haryana or Uttar Pradesh cadres and take up five of the seven seats on the board, the odd ones out being Geeta Gauri and Prem Narayan Parashar.
Strange it is that even civil servants are raising questions on the selection of their colleagues even if they have been chosen by a powerful selection panel headed by a sitting judge of the Supreme Court.
Rosaiah has a game plan for Jagan
K. ROSAIAH is a soft spoken mild mannered man who swallowed much humiliation at the hands of supporters of the highly ambitious Y. S. Jaganmohan Reddy. Not in the last 50 years has a regional leader held the Congress high command to ransom as Jagan did in the days following YSR’s death, openly defying New Delhi’s diktat and blatantly asking his supporter ministers to keep away from cabinet meetings. But as they say, even a worm will turn, and it appears that the 70- year- old has suddenly seized the initiative away from the young Reddy. With the mass hysteria that followed YSR’s death now ebbing, there are signs that Jagan may not be unassailable after all.
Last weekend, Rosaiah arrived in the Capital with half his cabinet in tow. The visit was ostensibly official, but that he chose to come on a weekend when government was on holiday was proof that everything about it had to do with intra- party politics.
Among those he called on were Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi, Pranab Mukherjee and P. Chidambaram. To each of them, he conveyed the same message: that he had sewed up an arrangement with filmstar Chiranjeevi’s Prajarajyam Party. With 151 of the 294 seats in the assembly, the Congress is just past the half way mark in the house, and though Jagan continues to claim that a majority of the MLAs are with him, it now appears that his numbers are vastly exaggerated. The fact that more half the cabinet accompanied him to New Delhi — many of them had earlier refused to attend cabinet meetings chaired by Rosaiah — is an indication that the ground is slipping from under Jagan’s feet. Congress circles reckon now that Jagan’s support among YSR’s hardcore followers is not expected to get into double digits which can easily be offset with the support of the 18 MLA’s of the Prajarajyam Party.
Sonset in the South?