Cricket board jumped gun on IPL shift: Chidambaram (Second Lead)

March 23rd, 2009 - 6:33 pm ICT by IANS  

P. Chidambaram New Delhi, March 23 (IANS) Accusing the Indian cricket board of jumping the gun on shifting the high-profile Indian Premier League (IPL) out of the country, Home Minister P. Chidambaram charged it with doublespeak on the security issue, saying a final decision was yet to be taken on the revised schedule of the Twenty20 event.
Addressing a press conference here, a combative Chidambaram also came down hard on Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) general secretary Arun Jaitley for politicising the issue.

At issue is the overlapping dates of the general elections and the IPL. Given that the five-phased polls will be conducted April 16-May 13 and that two million security personnel will be deployed during the exercise, the government says it cannot spare forces for the T20 tournament that was to run April 10-May 24.

“On March 17, a further revised schedule was given to the MHA (ministry of home affairs) with the observation that ‘it is our understanding that the directors general of police of the respective states have agreed to the conduct of the IPL matches as per the schedule’,” Chidambaram pointed out.

The revised schedule of the big bucks event had been communicated to the states the same day “and they were requested to offer their views and comments as early as possible.

“As of today (Monday), only three states and one union territory - Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Punjab and Chandigarh - have given their comments in writing. The other states have not communicated their views.

“Meanwhile, yesterday (Sunday), BCCI (Board of Cricket for Control in India) and IPL are reported to have decided to conduct the matches outside of India. That, of course, is a decision of the organisers and hence I have no comment on that decision,” Chidambaram contended.

But he did refute BCCI president Shashank Manohar’s comments that the attitude of the central government, and of states like Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh, in not providing security had led the organisers to move the big bucks event out of India.

“I have read a number of statements on the IPL’s decision which obliquely criticise the central government. These statements require an answer; some unwarranted comments also deserve a rejoinder.

“If he (Manohar) was referring to the central government, the remark is entirely unwarranted,” Chidambaram added.

“If he was referring to the state governments alone, I would like to remind him that state governments are ultimately responsible for maintaining law and order and providing security and one has to respect their judgement.”

The ministry, said Chidambaram, had at the very outset declared that it would not be able to spare central paramilitary forces for the eight venues where the IPL matches were to be played and this was a sentiment that was appreciated and accepted by the BCCI secretary, N. Srinivasan. Over two million security personnel will be drafted for poll duty and will be constantly moved around during the five-phase elections.

However, Chidambaram reserved his best for Narendra Modi, who had described the shifting of the IPL abroad as a “national shame”.

“What is a national shame? Most people in India think that the Gujarat communal riots of 2002 were a national shame. That the Supreme Court should have thought it fit to reject the investigations conducted by the Gujarat Police and to constitute a SIT to reinvestigate 14 cases is a matter which brought shame to the fair name of Gujarat,” Chidambaram maintained.

“When the SIT reports filed before the Supreme Court is unveiled, I have no doubt it will expose the inability of the Gujarat government in preventing the horrific incidents.”

The home minister also took a swipe at Arun Jaitley’s observations that the decision to have the IPL outside would send “a negative message to the world that India was unable to hold a domestic sporting event”.

“I know Jaitley has a penchant for exaggeration, but because he also wears the cap of the President of DDCA (Delhi District Cricket Association), he seems to have gone overboard this time,” said Chidambaram.

“Perhaps he has forgotten that several leaders of the NDA have also expressed the view that the schedule of the IPL should be postponed until after the elections. Even Karnataka, a state ruled by the BJP, has agreed to provide security on the dates suggested for the matches in Bangalore after April 30, when elections would be completed,” the home minister pointed out.

Responding to this, Jaitley said Monday: “Countries don’t come to a standstill merely because it is elections. Snide personal remarks are no substitute to security. Mr Chidambaram has been given the responsibility of the home ministry, he should work on that.”

Jaitley had also remarked that “the whole country was disturbed over the decision and the non-cooperative attitude of Congress-ruled states.”

Chidambaram said though cricket was a hugely popular game, it appeared that IPL was more than a game.

“It is a shrewd combination of sport and business. There is no reason to add politics to this combination,” the home minister contended.

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