Gone are the days when one batted with a straight bat. With the tumultuous popularity of T20 and Indian Premier League (IPL), it is all about unending slogs. No one is more adept than Lalit Kumar Modi at attempting hefty heaves against any bowler. He can reverse sweep Sushma Swaraj, play an upper cut against Vasundhara Raje, hit N Srinivasan over his head, step down to P Chidambaram, and slam Rupert Murdoch, Rajiv Shukla, Shashi Tharoor, Rakesh Maria and BCCI officials at will.
Thanks to former Mr Cricket, who takes credit for inventing IPL, ministers, former ministers, chief ministers, former chief ministers, police commissioners, lawyers, global politicians, foreign bureaucrats and officials of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) find themselves in the dock. No one, be it friend or enemy, is safe when LaMo (his new nickname) opens his mouth and taps his mobiles to send tweets. Not even Narendra Modi, the country’s prime minister.
Britian’s longest serving Indian-origin politician Keith Vaz battled to save himself, and somehow retained the powerful post of the chairman of Home Affairs Select Committee. Indian opposition parties have bayed for the blood of Swaraj, the external affairs minister, and Raje, Rajasthan’s chief minister. Maria, Mumbai’s former police commissioner, is under investigation. Arun Jaitley, the finance minister, finds himself on the backfoot.
The list of those who were seared by LaMo’s attacks in the past few weeks is a long one. It includes the British royalty, Mukesh Ambani, India’s richest man, Tharoor, the former junior external affairs minister, P Chidambaram, the former finance minister, Rajiv Shukla, a Congress politician who had a long stint in BCCI, Murdoch, the biggest media magnate in the world and, of course, Srinivasan, the discredited former head of BCCI and currently the chief of the International Cricket Council (ICC).
If one looks at those who were retired hurt in the past, there is Sharad Pawar, head of Nationalist Congress Party, his daughter, Supriya Sule, and party colleague, Praful Patel. Other Indian politicians who found themselves in LaMo’s net were Prem Kumar Dhumal, former chief minister of Himachal Pradesh, and his son, Anurag Thakur, who is secretary, BCCI. Then there were his business and celebrity friends like Shah Rukh Khan, Preity Zinta and the Burman family, who own IPL teams.
To understand how and why Lalit Modi can undermine such powerful people, and so many of them, one has to analyse the wheels within the Indian cricket. The dismal truth is that the gentleman’s game is besieged by negative influences due to money, politics, global mafia, corruption, and a rotten cricket administration. To figure out Modi’s expansive sway, one has to start at the beginning of the current controversy, also the beginning of Modi’s cricket career.
Murdoch vs Vaz
For two decades, the British media was accused of hacking phones and emails, not just of celebrities, politicians and royal family members, but also of the parents of the victims of heinous crimes. The worst of these scandals came to light in 2009, which involved News of the World, which was owned by Murdoch and subsequently closed down. One of the worst critics of the media baron was none other than Vaz, head of the Home Affairs Committee, which investigated the issue.
In July 2011, Vaz said, “There has been a catalogue of failures by the Metropolitan Police, and deliberate attempts by News International (owned by Murdoch) to thwart the various investigations.” In its report in the same month, the Committee concluded, “We deplore the response of News International to the original investigations into hacking. It is almost impossible to escape the conclusion… that they were deliberately trying to thwart a criminal investigation. We are astounded at the length of time it has taken for News International to cooperate with the police…”
Therefore, Vaz and Murdoch have a history. Not surprisingly, it was a sting by Murdoch-owned The Times, London, against Vaz that opened LaMo’s can of worms. When it went through the politician’s emails, it found a string of them related to LaMo and Swaraj. On 31 July 2014, Vaz wrote to Sarah Rapson, an official at the UK home office, and urged her to expedite Modi’s documents to enable the latter to travel from London to Portugal for his wife’s cancer treatment.
It read: “Foreign minister of India has spoken to me making it very clear that the Indian Government has no objection to the travel documents being granted which is contrary to what the (earlier) refusal notice (of the home office) has stated.” During UPA-2 regime, India had told the UK that there were serious cases against Modi, that his passport was cancelled, and that there was a blue-corner notice against him, which prohibited his travel outside the UK. If he was allowed to leave the country, India had warned that it would impact bilateral ties between the two nations. This was the reason for the earlier “refusal notice” by the UK.
A day after Vaz’s email, Rapson replied, “I understand from my colleagues in Travel Documents that this issue has been resolved and that the solicitors have been contacted with the good news and indeed the document.” The same day LaMo sent a ‘thank you’ email to several recipients, including Vaz and Swaraj Kaushal, Sushma Swaraj’s husband. It read: “Thank you for putting all your might and help and sleepless nights in resolving this major issue which has taken us thru [sic] tremendous roller coaster ride… The sigh of relief I got even for a minute as I held the document before relinquishing to my portugese [sic] friends was a sheer delight. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart.”