A Politician’s Game

There is only one way to save the gentleman’s game from dishonour.

WrittenBy:Dr. Ashoka Prasad
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Sir Winston Churchill loathed his son-in-law, Vic Oliver, a comedian who had eloped with his daughter Sarah and married her. After the war, Oliver once reportedly asked Churchill to name his favourite leader. “Benito Mussolini” came the reply! When asked to explain the reason for this extraordinary choice, Churchill retorted, “Because he was the only one of my contemporaries who had guts enough to order his son-in-law shot”.


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I have been repeatedly reminded of this anecdote in the last week while observing Srinivasan’s discomfiture on television. A few have come out in his support citing that he cannot be “held responsible for the misdeeds of his son-in-law”.

I would have been tempted to accept that explanation but for the fact that his son-in-law was seemingly using Srinivasan’s position to procure pecuniary gains. While there has been, as yet, no evidence forthcoming to suggest that Srinivasan was actively colluding, one would have to be a sub-moron to accept that he was completely unaware of the shenanigans that were taking place.

Additionally, once the scam was exposed, Srinivasan did himself no favours at all by attempting a crude cover-up. He went to the ridiculous extent of declaring that his son-in-law was just a “cricket fan”, “enthusiast” and not the owner of the Chennai Super Kings franchise. Prima facie, I found it very difficult to believe that a successful businessman which no doubt Srinivasan is, would have expected all of us to be gullible enough to swallow this canard. There were visiting cards and loads of emails floating around to contradict the very premise of any such proposition.

Obviously Srinivasan had never heard of the famous Abe Lincoln quote – “You can fool some of the people all the time and all the people some of the time but not all the people all the time”.

His attempt to gag the Indian cricket captain was, to put it mildly, extremely gauche. MS Dhoni is about to lead his team to England for the Champion’s Trophy. He is sure to be confronted by the international media who will definitely question him on Gurunath’s involvement – and Srinivasan’s writ will not run over there.

All in all, we are getting a very unflattering picture of the BCCI and the megalomania that pervades at every level of its governance.

Srinivasan, it seems, would not be able to save his son-in-law. At times he has even appeared ambivalent about wanting to do so. But I believe I am not the only one in the country who believes that he would remain unscathed and it would be very difficult to dislodge him from his present position.

Why do I feel that? Because I believe that the BCCI reflects the true state of the Indian polity at large. It is just a microcosm of Indian politics. And in Indian politics – at least in contemporary Indian politics – you do not face any personal penalty once you are found to have indulged in activity that is either illegal or unethical or both.

Let us recall another famous son-in-law who was extended undue favours by the government only too willing to curry favours with his mother-in-law. The favours were of a magnitude that “mango-men” like me would not even dream about. And once the perfidy came to light, we witnessed a grotesque spectacle of one politician after another trying to give a different slant to the whole matter. Some of the ones indulging in this exercise were successful lawyers. That there was hardly anyone who believed them is another matter. The important point to note here is that nothing happened to this errant son-in-law, let alone his mother-in-law and her family. In this regard, he was luckier than Srinivasan’s son-in-law who at the time of writing is still languishing in police custody.

The lesson to be learned here is that India is very much a feudal oligarchy despite having a solid democratic framework. And in a feudal oligarchy, it is your master’s pleasure that determines your status – not your merit or industry. Simultaneously, the master’s pleasure insulates one from the consequences and clutches of law.

To illustrate the last point, one has only to remember Salman Khurshid and the Trust he and some of his immediate family regulate, which obtained public funds partly on the basis of a document which had the signature of a bureaucrat who has openly denied that he ever signed it. Khurshid is a trained lawyer and I’m sure is very familiar with Sections 468 and 471 of the Indian Penal Code which deal with obtaining benefits by presenting a false document as genuine. Both are cognisable offences and one of them is non-bailable. Despite all this being made public, to the best of my knowledge, neither have Salman nor have any of his family members even been questioned. Instead he was rewarded with a cushy promotion to a more important portfolio. He enjoys the support of his supremo – and as long as that remains he is safe.

It is precisely this mindset that is reflected when we notice the absence of any of the legends (with the exception of Bishan Bedi) coming out openly against Srinivasan. Despite having acquired a status as legends, they still rely very heavily on the BCCI top brass to propel them. This, I believe, answers a query repeatedly posed by Arnab.

Looking at the performance of nearly everyone concerned with the running of the game I cannot but remember the great American President Theodore Roosevelt . He had once said – “To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public”.

I sincerely hope this wisdom holds true for Indians as well. But for this to work, we have to divorce politics from cricket. Politicians may have a role in running the country and the government but to apply the same machinations for the noble game of cricket is supremely inappropriate.

As George Bernard Shaw stated – The art of government is the organisation of idolatry. And cricket certainly cannot be run on the principle of organisation of idolatory.

We have suffered enough – and it is about time we called it a day. Professional politicians must be kept out of cricket. That is the only way we can save the game that gives us so much pleasure.

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