IPL has become a tug-of-war between UPA and opposition (News Analysis)

March 17th, 2009 - 8:38 pm ICT by IANS  

By Veturi Srivatsa
New Delhi, March 17 (IANS) The much-awaited Indian Premier League (IPL) appears to have become a game of political football between its organisers and the home ministry, with both putting the ball into the other’s half. And somewhere down the line political opponents of the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) are trying to hijack the event.

The union government is caught in a cleft stick. Its home minister Palaniappan Chidambaram seems to have made up his mind not to have any IPL games during the entire duration of the general elections, though he, for public consumption, keeps on saying that IPL is safe and security will be provided for the matches.

At the same time he is scared of any untoward incident during the Twenty20 tournament that could affect the electoral prospects of the UPA, the Congress in particular.

He is also aware that if the event is cancelled, his party will have to pay a heavy electoral price. Some television channels have pre-empted any move to cancel the event by organising opinion polls that show that people are overwhelmingly in favour of the IPL being held along with the general elections.

In endless meetings between the IPL organisers, chiefs of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and the home ministry officials, only the IPL schedule has been tossed around. It is not clear why the IPL or the board had to approach the home ministry as the IPL has always approached the local police authorities for clearance for international matches.

The home ministry has washed its hands off by directing the organisers to get clearances from the ten states where the matches are to be played.

The government appears to be buying time by delaying the clearance so that the organisers are left with no option but to cancel the tournament scheduled between April 10-May 24. The IPL submitted a re-revised schedule to the home ministry Tuesday after obtaining security clearance from eight states.

The only states to express their inability to provide security in view of the general election are Congress-ruled Delhi and Rajasthan. But both the IPL authorities and the home ministry are waiting for the green signal in writing from the other eight states.

Seeing the central government vacillate, the BJP and Left Front-run states have jumped into the situation, promising security for the matches played in the states ruled by them, though they too initially tried to arm-twist the centre by demanding para-military forces to provide security for the matches.

Two BJP-ruled states of Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh have offered a sanctuary for the beleaguered IPL to hold the matches of Rajasthan Royals in Ahmedabad’s Gujarat Stadium at Motera and the Delhi Daredevils matches at the new cricket stadium at Dharamsala. Both Ahmedabad and Dharamsala are considered catchment areas of the IPL franchises.

The Maharashtra government is likely to give clearance as the state home minister is from the Nationalist Congress Party, of which the former board president Sharad Pawar is the chief. But Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit may not have such luck as the capital’s police is under the union home ministry.

A source close to the chief minister told IANS she is keen on Delhi Daredevils playing their matches at the Ferozeshah Kotla. She has even recently received her Daredevils’ membership card from the franchise.

The other Congress-ruled state Andhra Pradesh has agreed to hold the matches after the elections in the state and some of the Deccan Chargers matches will be played elsewhere.

A top IPL official told IANS that all the states where the IPL scheduled its matches, barring Rajasthan and Delhi, have promised to give security clearance in writing within a day or two, but a couple of them are worried of pressures and pulls to stay off the high-profile tournament.

The IPL has become a highly popular event after its resounding success last summer and if the second season is disrupted or abandoned for lack of security it will send out wrong signals to the cricketing world that India is not safe to host international matches and that that will cast a shadow on the 2011 World Cup to be played in the four subcontinental countries — Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh besides India.

The IPL security had another twist Monday when Indian Olympic Association president Suresh Kalmadi wanted the tournament postponed to avoid any incident that can have repercussions on hosting the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

Kalmadi, Congress MP from Pune, Maharashtra, is under pressure from the Commonwealth Games Federation to guarantee security for the New Delhi Games.

–Indo-Asian New Service

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