No Proof Required: Conflict of interest, anyone?

High time the PM asked all BJP politicians to give their LPG cylinder, sorry, BCCI job, back.

Written by Surjit S Bhalla | Updated: July 27, 2015 4:38 pm
narendra modi, subsidy, lpg subsidy, gas cylinder subsidy, lpg gas cylinder subsidy, bcci, bcci cricket, india cricket, bcci chairman, bcci job, indian express columns, surhit s bhalla columns, indian express columns In 2011, Ajay Maken decided to introduce a draft National Sports Development Bill to bring the BCCI under the RTI. (Illustration: C R Sasikumar)

Conflict of interest is now a household phrase. Mainstream media (MSM) and the Congress party are the flag-bearers of this newfound morality in public life. The Congress criticises and MSM (particularly English TV) hyperventilates and endorses. The main theme of this Congress monologue is that the BJP is just as corrupt as they were (they certainly don’t deny that they were very corrupt!). As proof, evidence is provided about conflict of interest “relationship” of two BJP leaders — Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj and Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje — with a former BCCI official, Lalit Modi.

As readers of this column know, politicians of both major parties, the Congress and the BJP, have had a long-term cosy club (the CC in BCCI) relationship with the BCCI. I have always believed that invoking the BCCI in your morality defence is a stupid, self-defeating strategy. It is bound to backfire. And the Congress is using this conflict of interest as the prime reason to try to hold up Parliament and prevent discussion of crucial in-the-interest-of-the-nation bills.

Share This Article
Share
Related Article

A pot should not call a kettle black (what is the politically correct phrase in these challenged times?) and people in glass houses should not throw stones. But no point in telling the Congress that. In 2011, the UPA’s sports minister, Ajay Maken, decided to introduce a draft National Sports Development Bill. The bill would have brought the BCCI and all other sports bodies under the Right to Information Act. All of us would support such an effort, no? After all, on what grounds can the BCCI possibly not come under the RTI?

The draft bill was vetoed by the UPA cabinet comprising of four UPA cricket ministers, who (apparently) did not have any conflict of interest: Sharad Pawar (ICC president), Farooq Abdullah (J&K Cricket Association president), C.P. Joshi (chief of Rajasthan Cricket Association), and Vilasrao Deshmukh (head of Mumbai Cricket Association). It gets worse (could it?) — Kapil Sibal deemed it fit to remain in the cabinet discussions and vehemently opposed the bill. And, of course, the UPA allowed him to do so.

No conflict of interest resignations were demanded or offered. Interestingly, the only person who thought it fit to talk about the impropriety was J&K chief minister, Omar Abdullah, son of Farooq Abdullah, who tweeted, “I believe the Union ministers heading sports bodies should have excused themselves from the sports bill discussion”. Given the UPA regime’s spotless record, it is not surprising that Omar was unceremoniously made to eat his words — the tweet has since been deleted.

The UPA non-conflict of interest story continues. In 2013, and within three days of the arrests in the cricket spot-fixing scandal, the UPA courageously announced a strong bill to stop unfair practices in sports, especially in cricket — the Prevention of Sporting Fraud Bill. IPL chairman Rajeev Shukla met the law minister, Kapil Sibal, and asked for the strongest possible law; the BCCI’s full support was also assured. When finalised, the bill kept both the BCCI and IPL outside its jurisdiction. Subsequently, the draft bill was consigned to cold (cosy club) storage. Clearly, one does not need to further detail the cosiness of this club (Congress or BJP).

As seen above, the relationship between the government and the BCCI has been so close that no conflict of interest was ever believed to have existed if a politician was associated with both, even when those politicians became senior ministers. But times began to change when Narendra Modi, head of the Gujarat Cricket Association (GCA), was elected PM last year. For the first time, an individual did not hold joint positions in cricket organisations and as a cabinet minister. Modi resigned, as did Arun Jaitley. Amit Shah replaced Modi as GCA chief and a cricket administrator, S.P. Bansal, replaced Jaitley as head of the Delhi District Cricket Association (DDCA). Incidentally, Bansal was charged with misappropriation of funds in January 2014. The case is still being heard.

But what is the cause for all the ministers clinging on to their plush BCCI or cricket association chairs? The history of the BCCI may provide some clues. Recall that it was only in 2007 that the Union government cancelled the BCCI’s NGO status. Before that, this huge profit-making enterprise did not pay any tax on its profits. The reason NGOs (around the world) are allowed this tax benefit is because they are involved in producing a “public good”. And as long as profits are ploughed back into the public good, everybody is happy, or at least should be.

How well did the BCCI perform in terms of serving the public good in its no-tax days? While it is difficult to obtain balance sheet data for the BCCI prior to 2007, the balance sheet data of one of its premier constituents, the DDCA, are available for two years, 1997-98 and 1999-2000. In Schedule I to R, it is reported that coaching expenses of the DDCA (the public good item) in 1997-98 were zilch (yes, zero) and in 1998-99, such expenses were Rs 20,727. Total DDCA income for the two years was Rs 88 lakh and Rs 200 lakh respectively. So, clearly not a lot was spent on coaching and maybe that is why the Delhi teams cannot win anything!

But one line item in the expenses sheet makes for extraordinary reading. The DDCA is a club, and as such, it serves liquor to its members and their guests. The income from “sale of empty bottles” (presumably liquor) was Rs 22,372 and Rs 24,406 in the two years. In other words, the DDCA received more income from the sale of empty liquor bottles than it spent on coaching.

Let us also talk about the stadiums the DDCA is supposed to hold in trust for the players, the sport and the fans. What has the DDCA done for its fans? Anybody who has been to the Feroz Shah Kotla (FSK) grounds knows that it possibly is the worst cricket stadium in the world. As a proud Delhiwallah, I am embarrassed and ashamed every time I have visited the cricket grounds under the DDCA’s control.

In 2010-11, the DDCA spent Rs 3.8 crore on renovation and beautification of toilets at the FSK constructed just three years earlier, in 2007-08. The MSM did not find this newsworthy. Nor has it found it newsworthy to report that Lalit Modi spent Rs 20 crore in the renovation of the Sawai Mansingh stadium in Jaipur during 2005-08. The world can see the difference — the DDCA spending Rs 150 crore to “renovate” Kotla and what just Rs 20 crore can buy in Jaipur. Oh yes, not only has the DDCA spent money inefficiently, but it has also been illegally occupying the stadium ground for the last 12 years (the lease expired in 2002) — and has been allowed to do so primarily by the UPA, and now by the BJP.

We come back to where we started this series on the BCCI. Cricket and politicians must divorce, for the considerably better health of both. Narendra Modi can help his, and the BJP’s image (in these trying MSM times), by finishing the journey he embarked on last year when he asked his ministers to resign from the BCCI. Time for him to ask all BJP politicians to give their LPG cylinder, sorry, BCCI job, back.

The writer is a contributing editor for ‘The Indian Express’ and co-author, with Ankur Choudhary, of ‘Criconomics’

For all the latest India News, download Indian Express App now

  1. A
    Ashish Singh
    Jul 11, 2015 at 9:08 pm
    Modi resigned as head of GCA when he was elected PM in order to avoid conflict of interest. Before that he was CM of Gujarat and head of GCA and there was no conflict of interest in that! But when Farooq Abdullah is CM and heads JKCA there is conflict of interest in that.... Brilliant logic!
    Reply
    1. T
      TIHAEwale
      Jul 11, 2015 at 9:56 am
      Shameless Surjit Bhalla, good keep trying for the Rajya Sabha seat. Don't still dare to ask Arun Jaitley, Amit Shah, Anurag Thakur to give up the relationship with BCCI because they could be Aces who could get Bhalla a seat in Rajya Sabha
      Reply
      1. A
        Ajit
        Jul 11, 2015 at 11:27 am
        convert the delhi golf course ground into a public park
        Reply
        1. A
          ak dev
          Jul 12, 2015 at 2:24 am
          Both Congress and BJP want to Milk BCCI. There is no difference between them their love of Cricket.
          Reply
          1. A
            ak dev
            Jul 11, 2015 at 12:22 pm
            NaMo runs a democratic government. Congress wants him to become dictator so that they can say we had been telling this for long. Congress remains as stupid as ever and has no clue to defeat Modi. As long as Congress doesn't reform itself in true spirit of serving nation, Congress can't produce a leader acceptable to mes.
            Reply
            1. A
              ak dev
              Jul 11, 2015 at 12:10 pm
              No political party in India can ever be a collection of Saints. If people want them to be so, first they have to clean themselves because politicians can only be as corrupt as people want them to be. However, I have full faith in NaMo. Right now he is the only one who can bring some sanity to Indian politics. Some people hate NaMo primarily based on info fed by unaccountable media. They somehow continue to refuse that NaMo has not been find guilty so far in all accusations hurled on him. Many of them particularly the Congressees are extremely corrupt and are feeling threatened their only way of livelihood. Some wants rest on the world to be clean and they be allowed loot of public ets. Few are helpless and do not know what they want.
              Reply
              1. A
                ak dev
                Jul 11, 2015 at 12:16 pm
                Surjit deserve a Rajya Sabha seat. He would severe better than Sachin Tendulkar.
                Reply
                1. A
                  ak dev
                  Jul 12, 2015 at 2:05 am
                  The problem with your statement is that you want every thing to be done by NaMo. This is expected from a dictator. In a democracy executive, judiciary, parliament, and media all have their role to play. If there are allegations that must be filed in court to be investigated. NaMo has much more important things to do that can't be done by any body else. He is rightly ignoring these noises and focusing on development work that Congress doesn't want to happen. The purpose of these allegations is to distract NaMo from doing important thinks so that Congress can drum beat that NaMo has not any thing.
                  Reply
                  1. A
                    ak dev
                    Jul 11, 2015 at 12:24 pm
                    You have repeated the same comment several times. You must be a mentally disturbed person.
                    Reply
                    1. A
                      Arun
                      Jul 12, 2015 at 6:56 am
                      Wonderfully written and exposed well known truth Dr Bhalla. Problem is elected politicians shameless power that keeps them stuck to the chairs of both seats of cricket and politics. Unless there is a law to prevent the basic conflict of interest that is underlying all this and that too as a criminal cognizable offence it would be hard to expect any change.
                      Reply
                      1. A
                        atul kumar
                        Jul 17, 2015 at 7:05 pm
                        Not bad writing, but the writer would do well to know more thru
                        Reply
                        1. C
                          Chandra Bhatt
                          Jul 11, 2015 at 3:11 pm
                          why is socalled brilliant econnomist wasting our time bywriting incohherant and irrelavant things @ DDCA instead of giving conc. arguments to show there was no conflict of interest in Susham swaraj and Vasundhara Raje's case. HE could have replied to comments by Inder Malhotra and Sopariwala on the subject in earlier articles in IE
                          Reply
                          1. S
                            shank
                            Jul 11, 2015 at 4:31 pm
                            if he isbcapable
                            Reply
                            1. G
                              Gopal
                              Jul 11, 2015 at 10:32 am
                              Amazing stuff and the Congress Party has the courage to criticize the BJP!!!
                              Reply
                              1. J
                                joseph varghese
                                Jul 11, 2015 at 5:29 pm
                                An apology of an article for an even more apologetic government/
                                Reply
                                1. J
                                  joseph varghese
                                  Jul 11, 2015 at 5:31 pm
                                  Why not? the shine of his bald head will confuse batmen.
                                  Reply
                                  1. A
                                    anandap
                                    Jul 12, 2015 at 9:28 am
                                    It is high time PM Modi ask all BJP MPs to give up all freebies now they are enjoying to start from Gas, Housing, travel and medical subsidies. Before asking people to give up subsidies, ask the inquisitional subsidies enjo by rulers first, second the officials, and third people. Then only the ruler is morally justified! Mr. Bhalla clearly articulated this point very well.
                                    Reply
                                    1. A
                                      anandap
                                      Jul 12, 2015 at 9:30 am
                                      It is high time PM Modi ask all BJP MPs, MLAs, political appointee Board memebrs, to give up all freebies now they are enjoying to start from Gas, Housing, travel and medical subsidies. Before asking people to give up subsidies, ask the insutional subsidies enjo by rulers first, second the officials, and third people. Then only the ruler is morally justified! Mr. Bhalla clearly articulated this point very well.
                                      Reply
                                      1. A
                                        anandap
                                        Jul 12, 2015 at 9:38 am
                                        Mr. Bhall wrote about three pieces on conflict of interest between insutional corruption and unity (irrespective of parties) of political, business and corrupt official nexus on sharing autonomous bodies like sports, culture, art , human rights, etc. But no response so far from political cles show how vehemently they are united and prepared to counter against any transparent policies.
                                        Reply
                                        1. M
                                          Mohan
                                          Jul 11, 2015 at 5:00 pm
                                          Because Mr Malhotra and Mr Sopariwala wasted their time and the readers'time by what they had penned
                                          Reply
                                          1. R
                                            Raghvinder
                                            Jul 11, 2015 at 12:35 pm
                                            Politicians like being on boards of Cricket because there is money to be made and they get to control huge amount of money that they can dole out to lesser members and local boards, to win future elections to remain on these boards of Cricket. If there was no money involved, politicians will not be interested in Cricket. The answer lies in denying money to the bodies like BCCI and state cricket boards. As individual citizens and voters, we must pay equal attention to all games, not worship players of one game at the cost of other games and athletics. I feel Saina Nehwal and Sania Mirza are bigger heroes than our players who play fixed match in Cricket teams owned by friends and families of politicians and industrialists.
                                            Reply
                                            1. Load More Comments