NEW DELHI: The conspiracy of silence within the BCCI was broken on Tuesday when board heavyweight and Union power minister Jyotiraditya Scindia publicly said president N Srinivasan should quit.
Speaking on the day TOI led its front page with a piece titled ‘Why are they so silent?’ on the seeming spinelessness of the board’s high-profile political leadership to confront Srinivasan even after his son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan’s arrest on charges of betting and fixing, Scindia said, “I would have stepped aside (in a similar situation).
If you combine the fact that (there is a) conflict of interest and his own family member is involved in an ongoing investigation, it’s in the fitness of things, from a point of view of propriety, that he should step aside until this matter reaches a conclusive end in terms of an inquiry…We are responsible for the actions of our family members.”
“I do believe that cricket has suffered,” Scindia added, contradicting Srinivasan who has been brazen enough to claim that all the criticism about his conflict of interest, his son-in-law and the betting-fixing scandal stemmed only from the media and certain vested interests.
Scindia’s hard-hitting statement came on a day when the other political worthies in BCCI – BJP’s Arun Jaitley and Congress’ Rajiv Shukla, who’s also IPL commissioner, and CP Joshi – side-stepped the burning issue that’s eroding public faith in cricket with terse “no comments” while Narendra Modi’s office told this paper he did not wish to say anything. Since May 16, he has tweeted 48 times but not once on the betting-fixing scandal or on the BCCI boss’s flagrant defiance of public opinion.
However, the chorus of public opinion against Srinivasan’s continuance is reaching a crescendo. When contacted by TOI, eminent citizens such as Gopal Gandhi, J M Lyngdoh, Harish Salve, Ramchandra Guha, Julio Ribeiro and KT Thomas, and top sportspeople like PT Usha, Erapalli Prasanna, V Bhaskaran and Bishen Singh Bedi were unanimous in deploring Srinivasan’s stubborn refusal to quit and said that his behaviour was bringing the game of cricket into shame.
Meanwhile, there are indications that the Congress was firming up a strategy to nudge Srinivasan out and usher in a process for cleansing the game.
When asked by TOI, sports minister Jitendra Singh appeared disturbed by the turn of events but declined to comment on whether Srinivasan should resign. “It is his morality.
He has to look deep into his heart and see if he should step down given the scandals that have come out in the public domain. I would refrain from commenting on whether he should resign since it is an issue within the BCCI and I am not part of the board.”
But Scindia, whose father Madhavrao in 1992 unilaterally resigned as civil aviation minister after an air accident (in which no lives were lost), was less guarded.
“Cricket is a sport that’s loved by every single individual across the length and breadth of India. Therefore, when something like this comes to the fore, it hits the core of our sporting spirit,” he said.
On being asked about Srinivasan’s claim that he enjoyed the unanimous support of the BCCI board, Scindia said, “No one has asked me for my opinion.” He hoped that BCCI wouldn’t have to take the extreme step of removing Srinivasan.
“I hope his conscience does make him take the right step. If required I will speak to him because it is the right thing to do… That example has to come from the top.”
Asked about the BCCI inquiry committee, he said, “It should be composed of people whose reputation is impeccable and who are not questionable. Pending this committee’s report he (Srinivasan) should step aside.”
He added, “And if he and his family members or rather his son-in-law is absolved then surely he can come back. But considering the environment that cricket is in today, he should step aside.”
On Srinivasan’s statement that his son-in-law was not the CSK team principal or owner, Scindia said, “I don’t want to get into the nitty-gritty of issues. I don’t believe that the nitty-gritty is important now.
I believe that propriety is important. And in the sense of propriety he should step aside, not only for himself, and for CSK, but for spirit of cricket per se.”