Corruption: Azad pegs away at DDCA mess
The Kejriwal government’s probe into long-alleged financial irregularities in the DDCA could finally clean up the organisation’s Augean stables
Akshay Sharma Delhi
The Delhi & District Cricket Association (DDCA) has always been mired in corruption and cronyism. Many people including former cricketers like Bishan Singh Bedi and Kirti Azad have voiced their concerns about the murky goings-on in the cricket association, but due to the presence of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley at the helm these allegations have never been taken to their logical conclusion. That is changing now.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal took cognisance of the demand made by a delegation of former cricketers who met him to probe the alleged financial irregularities in the DDCA. Kejriwal promptly appointed a two-member committee to investigate these allegations. The Delhi government is also demanding Rs 24.46 crore from the DDCA as entertainment tax for the period 2008-12. The DDCA claims it received exemptions from paying entertainment tax for this period but the government refutes this.
Although this intervention seems to be limited to the game of cricket and how it is played in the capital, it has implications that are far deeper. Jaitley is the most important person in the government after the Prime Minister and if a probe proves acts of corruption in the DDCA, it could shake the NDA government that prides itself on being squeaky clean.
The emergence of this controversy has also cast a shadow over the fourth Test between India and South Africa set to be played at the Feroze Shah Kotla Stadium in Delhi from December 3. The BCCI has given the DDCA time till November 17 to sort out the problems with the government in order to host the Test. If the DDCA fails to do so, the match could be taken away from Delhi and given to Pune.
For many years now BJP MP and former Indian international Kirti Azad has targetted Jaitley, who has headed DDCA for 14 years. Earlier this year Azad requested Delhi Police to file an FIR against Jaitley for financial wrongdoings during his tenure as the DDCA president. Also due to Azad’s efforts the Serious Fraud Investigation Organisation (SFIO) of the Ministry of Corporate Affairs launched an inquiry into 23 instances of alleged irregularities. No action was taken on the SFIO report.
Bedi and Azad wrote letters to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in January this year to bring to his attention instances of fraud, embezzlement, misappropriation of funds and other irregularities taking place in the DDCA. They also supported former sports minister in the UPA government Ajay Maken’s proposed Bill to make sports bodies like the DDCA more transparent and accountable. The Bill was opposed trenchantly by many politicians, including Jaitley and Anurag Thakur.
There is another dimension to this entire episode. Gautam Gambhir, captain of the Delhi Ranji team and someone who was a member of the Indian team till some time ago, has also raised his voice in protest. He too met the Delhi Chief Minister and expressed his frustration with the workings of the DDCA. He later tweeted that he had requested the Delhi CM to let Delhi host the match as he doesn’t want the fans in the city to suffer. Gambhir was known as a Jaitley supporter and had even campaigned for him in Amritsar during the Lok Sabha elections.
The BJP and its leaders are not alone in facing criticism, all three government nominees in the DDCA executive body belong to the Congress. They are former MP from Haryana Naveen Jindal, former MLA Arvinder Singh Lovely, and senior party leader and former Union Minister Rajeev Shukla. Despite being from different parties, Shukla and Jaitley are said to be close and have collaborated within the BCCI. They allegedly conspired to get Parliament adjourned earlier so that they could attend the meeting of the cricket board.
In 2012, Azad went on a symbolic fast to protest against the lack of transparency and malpractices in the Indian Premier League (IPL). No support came to him then. But times are changing and the probe by the Kejriwal government could prove to be the tipping point.