NEW DELHI: In a clear indication that BCCI plans to concentrate on fallen IPL commissioner Lalit Modi while the heat on his one-time mentor Sharad Pawar will begin to ebb, the cricket body's chief Shashank Manohar on Monday said there was no evidence against the NCP boss or his relatives.
Responding to questions in Mumbai, Manohar was categoric in giving Pawar a clean chit even as he announced a slew of charges against Modi who has been suspended from the BCCI. The sentiment was echoed by other BCCI leaders who said there was "nothing on paper" against the agriculture minister or his colleague Praful Patel.
The BCCI stance not only makes it clear that the separation between Pawar and Modi is complete despite the proximity they have enjoyed over the past several years. It will be Modi who will face the music from BCCI and government agencies that are probing IPL funding and tax evasion allegations. As far as Pawar is concerned, the firewall seems firmly in place.
This might suit Congress as well as the UPA lead player does not intend to destablise the NCP chief through income-tax investigations or the political uproar over IPL's murky dealings. The consensus in political circles is that Congress was more interested in bruising Pawar and bringing him down a few notches further in terms of standing and relations with his larger ally.
BCCI's post-Modi focus also indicates this line of action as officials are trying to trace controversial contracts like TV and internet rights that are linked to Modi rather than Pawar. It is being pointed out that the hundreds of papers that have gone missing include those relating to the contract between the Board, Multi Screen Media and World Sports Group that generated considerable controversy for an $80 million facilitation fee.
Sources said Pawar did try and urge Modi to quit ahead of the Monday meeting as that would have eased the pressure for a full-fledged inquiry that chief administrative officer Ratnakar Shetty will now carry out. Modi's open defiance left the Board with no option but to act harshly. Owner of Bangalore's Royal Challengers Vijay Mallya was part of the effort to cajole Modi into quitting.
Ironically, just a few days ago Modi associate Punjab cricket chief I S Bindra had met BCCI members to suggest a peace deal of sorts. Bindra had reportedly said that Modi could be suspended instead of being asked to go right away. This would hold the possibility of his being reinstated while resigning was as good as an admission of guilt.
BCCI sources argue that Modi had to be suspended once he declared that he would call and chair a meeting of the governing council while one had already been summoned. There could not be two meetings and Modi was not to be allowed to chair any council meeting.Hope for the best.