Kirti Azad interview: ‘I fail to understand why politicians come into sports… they delay issues’https://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/kirti-azad-i-fail-to-understand-why-politicians-come-into-sports-they-delay-an-issue/

Kirti Azad interview: ‘I fail to understand why politicians come into sports… they delay issues’

My crusade against corruption in sports will continue. And what better place than the DDCA to do that.

Kirti Azad
Kirti Azad

It’s been alleged that you raised the DDCA issues in the Lok Sabha at the behest of Sonia Gandhi.

Rule 350 (Lok Sabha) says – and I will quote- ‘When a member rises to speak, the name of such a member will be called by the Speaker. If more members than one rise at the same time, the name of the member whose name has been called will be entitled to speak’. So I spoke, because I mentioned to the honorable Speaker that people from the Opposition had taken my name… I said if my government is not serious about fighting against corruption, why did they send four notices to the DDCA since October 23? These are the CBI notices, I wasn’t being anti-party but I was speaking for the government.

You didn’t mention Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s name in Parliament…

I didn’t. The notices (CBI) have been given since 2009 to 2013 when he was the president. If you look into the memorandum of association and articles of association, there is nothing known as non-executive president. If you are a non-executive president then why are you chairing the AGMs and why have you signed the balance sheet?

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Also Read: Congress ministers on DDCA panel silent on corruption, says Kirti Azad

The BJP has said there is no mention of Jaitley in the Delhi government report…

The report does not mention anyone. In the end it says having gone through whatever little papers we have, a commission of inquiry should be instituted. The SFIO (report) was toned down because the government nominees were from the Congress. Rajeev Shukla, a very important man… Naveen Jindal and Arvinder Singh Lovely, former education minister of Delhi. So obviously they were in cahoots with these people. The SFIO report is contradictory in nature. It talks about 62 violations, and then says it is about irregularities. Companies with shutters down and nobody knows how they exist, are companies that have been given crores of rupees. They are ghee sellers and garment sellers.

You are saying the Congress can’t get away, their leaders too knew what was happening…

Yes, because they were government nominees. Someone as important as Rajeev Shukla, a person who lost the election of treasurer of BCCI and became the commissioner of IPL. That is why I call it United Alliance. United in corruption and alliance is for position. That is how I describe BCCI.

So you are saying your fight isn’t against any individual or party?

Whosoever is guilty must be brought to book. After all, DDCA is LIC or Legal Institute of Corruption. Where you embezzle in crores and compound (pay fine) in thousands.

You are targeting Jaitley …

I have nothing against him. It is the right question to the wrong person. When the coal scam took place we (BJP) said the ministry was under him (former PM Manmohan Singh). He may or may not have been involved but that is a different thing. He has to take vicarious responsibility, moral and collective.

What next for Kirti Azad?

My crusade against corruption in sports will continue. And what better place than the DDCA to do that. That is the place from where I got my fame. I follow in the footsteps of my legendary captain Bishen Singh Bedi. He was one man who inspired us to win and fight… Once he came, we won the Ranji Trophy, one year after another.

Didn’t people tell you that the December 20 press conference was a bad idea?

Is it against the party, is it against an individual? It is against the corruption that took place. I don’t know why they are trying to show it as a fight between the finance minister and me.

Wasn’t there pressure on the party to call off the press conference?

I have full respect for the party and my president but a lot of things are classified. He definitely asked me not to speak but I said it is not a party matter. It has been going on for the past nine years. No president (BJP) took note of it, for the simple reason they never thought it was a party matter. If at all it was, then IPL should have also been a party matter… BCCI should also be a party matter, Hockey India should be a party matter… So I said if at all you feel it is a matter that has to be solved, then you call both parties. Because you can’t clap with just one hand.

Did you tell them you had gone too far ahead to back out?

That was not the case. See, I said I have not yet decided the venue (of the press conference) though everybody knows I was going to hold the press conference on Sunday at 4 pm. All else that I spoke about with the president is classified.

After your long campaign, you couldn’t have said ‘I won’t hold the press conference’, could you?

Exactly. I couldn’t. I was getting so many messages on social media, with so much support. It wasn’t an anti-party activity. It wasn’t against any individual. Poor people’s children cannot play here. Why can’t they play? Because a lot of other considerations take place before a selection. Hence lot of these parents came to me, mothers and fathers from poor families and middle class families. I saw those players, they were really good. I fought for them.

Your mentor Bedi had backed you.

This NCT association (National Capital Territory Cricket Association) has been there since 1996. A lot of parents wanted to withdraw their children from cricket because other considerations were given importance when it came to selection in 2005-06. That is the time Bedi and my coach Gurcharan Singh ji said that I must fight this corruption. If CBI calls me, I will give them all papers and all the proof.

Unfortunately, I don’t know why only notices are being served.

So you are saying you are standing up for the cricketing fraternity?

Not only the cricketing fraternity. There are so many other associations, national associations of other games who have been embezzling funds and hence I feel action should be taken.

Was it a choice between your sports and your politics?

Always, I am a sportsman at heart and a politician by choice. I come here with the values I have been taught in my family.
Almost snapping ties with political friends…

I fail to understand why politicians have to come into sports. We have very good examples of politicians who have come into sports. People like the late N K P Salve, the late Madhavrao Scindia, people like the late Wankhede, they had the passion for the game. If there was any problem they were there for the players. Politicians come in and delay an issue. Justice delayed is justice denied and it happens all the time.

Do politicians, while in sports bodies, tend to appease those around them?

Exactly, this (sports) is the best forum for them. It is like socialising where you have glamorous people and other powerful people. You know it is a very good place to make contacts. Rather than looking at the game or being for the game, they are using the platform for their personal gains.

You were part of DDCA, as a member of the cricket improvement committee. What was your experience?

Once the game got abandoned in December 2009, when we were playing Sri Lanka in a one-day match, there was so much heat and pressure on the DDCA that the then president and current finance minister called us over to his house and we told him let’s have a cricket improvement committee.

You look into the administration and we will look into cricket. He was the one who said ‘Yes, that is a good idea’. We got improvement committee papers from Gujarat, Karnataka and Mumbai and made an organogram in which it was decided what Mr Bedi, Surinder Khanna, Madan Lal and Maninder Singh and I would do. We thought it would be only the cricketers but 17 members from the DDCA came into that.

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So it was again the same baarat and hence there was no opportunity. And then they say what did the CIC do? We never got an opportunity, you didn’t even give us a copy of the minutes. Only three meetings were held and after that we were being abused left, right and centre. So forget the improvement.