Realpolitik in the time of Lalit Modi
It’s safe to say that Cricket is no longer a gentleman’s game. The millions of people who watch the game seem to know this as well. When one asserts that for them cricket is a ‘religion,’ it reflects the ramshackle belief system of the Hindutva brigade.
Small wonder, then that when the Lalit Modi saga hit the headlines at least two of the party’s leading lights, the Minister for External Affairs, Sushma Swaraj, and Rajasthan Chief Minister, Vasundhara Raje got embroiled in the seamy side of the story.
The facts of the case, so far, are well known. They do not bear repetition. However, a comment is due on account of the Minister for External Affairs, Sushma Swaraj. A BJP leader of equanimity and considered to be one seen on front lines of women’s issues always had an Achilles’ heel: her husband Swaraj Kaushal, who is a Supreme Court lawyer more known for his subterranean connections.
Lalit Modi’s sleaze is not unknown to any, especially after the IPL ‘pyjama cricket,’ went into vogue. And he lost control of his money-spinner. This Modi was a friend of Kaushal’s, who had obviously <g data-gr-id="66">goaded</g> Swaraj to “intervene with the British” for providing residency permit to him in that country. Modi was then possibly evading the various government agencies including the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and had moved to London.
Vasundhara Raje, on the other hand, was also a long-time friend of Lalit Modi’s. She had written to the British authorities for giving attention to Modi’s application for immigrant status in the country. On top of that, she had requested to the British government that her role be not disclosed to Indian authorities. She is thus implicated by association and for even seeking to keep it out of the government’s attention here.
But then Modi is not a factotum of the Board for Control of Cricket in India (BCCI). He is a scion of a large business family of the country. And when cricket became immensely popular in the country, the game naturally gained the attention of the politicos who not only wanted the stardust to settle on them, but also the huge amounts of money the game generated.
However, there are wheels within wheels. The sordid stories that were emerging around the time Narendra Modi government was completing first year in office had already taken away much of the halo that surrounded the man. So clearly there was a leak in the BJP-NDA ship. PM Modi’s plan A seemed to be slipping away from the grasp of the man.
Many who covered the BJP as beat reporters knew the source of these stories. They were not coming from the Congress quarters – the primary opposition party in perpetual disarray. The tide needed staunching. The Delhi elections were a jolt.
Now, factions within the party had reared their head. Lal Krishna Advani may soon become a nonagenarian, but his quest for power remains undiminished. Swaraj was firmly ensconced in his camp, and where the BJP’s heart beats, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Advani’s camp was more acceptable and worthy to them of the trust than a rapacious Modi.
Modi needed to strike at the camp. The controversy around Lalit Modi was handy and a ghost of the recent past that could be resurrected to settle a few issues. On the one hand, it did not have enough of BJP’s political dirt. So, the government could avoid being tarred by the same murky brush, even if it could take down a scalp or two. Or at the very least, send a broad message to the RSS that the government’s own might is more powerful than the Sangh’s.
Secondly, the Modi camp, not known for being too subtle, had to do the job with some panache that enhances its image rather than lowering it in the eyes of the people.
Now that Swaraj and Raje, who both have their factional and personal equations with Nagpur, could have been brought to the heel, Narendra Modi and his cohorts could seem to be generous and seek to bail them out by bringing out the details of Congress party members who too had consorted with Lalit Modi and cricket.
This was the classic strategy of killing two birds with one stone. If only all the pieces could fall in place – with the ED seeking access to Lalit Modi – Narendra Modi will then have the ammunition to survive a few more years in power than it is normally expected. Considering the almost insurmountable complexities of ruling India, especially with the highly compromised Indian elite operating the levers of power, Modi’s tenure can only be limited.
The author is a senior journalist