IPL acquires political hue, Chidambaram takes on cricket board (Roundup)

March 23rd, 2009 - 10:41 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party New Delhi, March 23 (IANS) The second edition of the high-profile Indian Premier League (IPL) took on a political colour Monday, with the government faulting the Indian cricket board for shifting it out of the country in haste and the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) trading charges on the Twenty20 tournament.
England now appears to be the favourite to host the IPL as the Cricket South Africa chief executive says he suspected they were not the “preferred choice” but a “standby”.

Home Minister P. Chidambaram, in accusing the Indian cricket board of jumping the gun on shifting the IPL out of the country, also charged it with doublespeak on the security aspects, saying a final decision was yet to be taken on the revised schedule of the event.

Addressing a press conference here, a combative Chidambaram also came down hard on Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and 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.

The BJP was quick to react to Chidmbaram’s remarks, with Arun Jaitley saying: “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.”

On its part, the Congress Monday accused the BJP of politicising the issue rather than being concerned with the security of Indian voters.

“The BJP is in the habit of distorting things, they want to convert IPL into ‘Indian Political League’. They are not concerned with the security of Indian voters. They want to bring politics into everything,” Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi told reporters.

Taking on Narendra Modi, who had described the shifting of the IPL abroad as a “national shame”, Singhvi also released a copy of a letter written March 17 by the Gujarat police chief in which he had told the state cricket board to shift the dates of IPL matches because of the polls.

Singhvi said: “If not Modi, at least his police officials are concerned about the security of the people.”

Singhvi said that not only the Gujarat police officials but also the chief minister of the BJP-ruled state of Karnataka had said that it would be impossible to hold IPL matches during the Lok Sabha elections.

At his press conference, Chidambaram said: “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’.”

The revised schedule of the 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 Control for Cricket 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.

“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,” the home minister maintained.

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.

However, Chidambaram reserved his best for Narendra Modi and his “national shame” remark.

“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 re-investigate 14 cases is a matter which brought shame to the fair name of Gujarat,” Chidambaram maintained.

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 and District Cricket Association), he seems to have gone overboard this time,” said Chidambaram.

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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