The ownership mess surrounding the Kochi franchise of the Indian Premier League, along with all its suggested subterranean filth, is what happens when you put together all the unholy elements of Big Business, Bollywood, Betting syndicates and Ballot champions into a box and shake hard. Now that this vile-looking genie is out and at large, it’s time to raise some issues, ask some questions:
1. Is Lalit Modi going to come clean? He has painted himself into a bit of a corner by forcing the new Kochi franchise to reveal its shareholding details. Now all the other franchises might have to follow suit; plus, the government agencies are reportedly investigating the web of companies that camouflages the real shareholding. Some of the powerful franchise owners might not be happy with Modi for precipitating matters. Things were going smooth so far and, for some inexplicable reasons, Lalit Modi has rocked the boat. Unpardonable.
2. The Income tax department has already showed up in force and any information they get gives them a handle. Some leverage that.
3. This raises questions over Lalit Modi’s managerial capabilities. Or, as they say in India, his ability to manage the “environment”. If he had wanted a certain corporate house to be awarded the franchise (as has been speculated in media), existing Indian management ethos (adopted wholesale from the Indian political narrative) would have expected him to have delivered the result. No questions asked about the means adopted; the ends matter more than anything else. He had managed to have his way so far; what went wrong this time? Time for the ungainly heave-ho, going by unconfirmed reports that a BCCI factotum is likely to be installed alongside Lalit Modi?
4. Why was Kochi selected for the franchise and not Ahmedabad as had been planned a year ago? Did Shashi Tharoor influence the decision? Was there any quid pro quo? The story of how a South African model was denied a visa by the ministry of external affairs – reportedly on a request from Lalit Modi — remains incomplete.
5. Was Lalit Modi under pressure from Narendra Modi to scuttle the Kochi deal?
6. Clearly, not all IPL team owners have stumped up hard cash. They could be just faces on hire, proxies lending their names for a fee to some moneybags who prefer staying in the shadows for the obvious reasons. How does IPL rid itself of this stigma?
7. Going by reports so far, only the IPL organizers seem to have made any money so far. Most teams still seem to be languishing in the red zone. So far, the league looks like a one-way funnel for pouring in cash with no guarantee of returns. What’s the big rush then for acquiring a franchise? Valuation game? Or, is there a pay-off somewhere else?
8. Sunanda Pushkar’s role is likely to come under closer scrutiny – getting a 5% sweat equity stake, apparently “undilutable in perpetuity (sic)”, according to some news channels, is bound to raise some eyebrows.