When reports started surfacing yesterday that Lalit Modi, now an international fugitive with a “blue alert” slapped on him by the Enforcement Directorate of India, is contemplating a retreat to Iceland in order to escape imminent arrest by Interpol agents and subsequent extradition to his home country, the sheer irony of the whole affair must have stirred up the surprise and astonishment of millions of cricket enthusiasts worldwide. After all, the person concerned has completed a full circle from dictating cricket to himself being dictated by authorities in India and abroad.
He, Lalit Kumar Modi, was the de facto controller of the multi billion dollar Indian Premier League and one of the richest sports administrators in recent history less than a year back. The IPL gave him cash, popularity, fame, media spotlight and whatever else he potentially asked for. His paramountcy was unchallenged both within and outside the cricketing world and his flamboyance made him an instant hit amongst media personnels who showered praises on his midas touch and ability to reap enormous dividends from a T-20 tournament. On top of that, the monetary extravagance of the league saw him winning the hearts of franchise owners and players, some of whom even tried to sidestep international commitments simply to figure in Modi’s league. In short, all was going well, until one Shasi Tharoor made his appearance.
Sashi Tharoor, former UN under secretary general and India’s then junior Minister for External Affairs was rumoured to have had some kind of a connection with Rendezvous Sports, a prominent shareholder of IPL Kochi, a side that was inducted into the tournament after bidding for two new teams concluded on 21st March, 2010. The cat was let out of the bag by Modi in one of his “tweets” where he made public the shareholding patterns of Kochi, alluding to a minister who had allegedly used his clout to make sure that the authorities maintain silence about a highly profitable “sweat equity” worth Rs 70 crore of one Dubai-based Sunanda Pushkar in Rendezvous Sports. This Sunanda later turned out to be the fiancee of Tharoor, landing the minister in hot water. The implication was clear- Tharoor had misused his official position to make his would-be wife a part of the cash-rich league. Tharoor retaliated by bringing accusations of cronyism against Modi with regards to handling of the IPL, but under mounting pressure, both from the Opposition and his own party, the Congress, he had to put in his papers as a minister within a few days. However, it was endgame for Modi as well. In a BCCI, under considerable influence of the Congress, Modi soon found himself isolated and ostracized with all officials, including President Sasank Manohar going all guns blazing to bring him down. Soon, IPL offices nationwide were raided by the Enforcement Directorate and no sooner had IPL 3 finished than Modi was shown the door as the Chairman and Commissioner of his own league, to be replaced by Chirayu Amin.
Soon, the BCCI followed up its move by forming a special panel to investigate irregularities within the IPL along with firing off showcause notices at Modi, over charges ranging from money laundering, misappropiation of funds, fudging of accounts to cronyism, dubious dealings, splurging and attempts to undermine the ECB and set up a rebel league in England. Modi didn’t keep silent either. He threatened to take BCCI to the court and submitted a 12,000 page reply to his showcauses alongside lobbing verbal grenades at BCCI secretary N Srinivasan and President Manohar, only to have his position compromised even more. A few months later, after striking a resounding unanimity in a BCCI meet, Manohar officially sacked Modi as the BCCI vice president reducing his hold over cricket to zero, so much so that when Kevin Pietersen had just a harmless chat with Modi when they met by chance in England, he was censured by the ECB and told to stay away from him. Shortly afterwards, to rub salt to Modi’s wounds, two franchises, Rajasthan and Punjab, allegedly having links with Modi’s cronies, were thrown out of the competition by BCCI officials for dubious ownership patterns. With more and more skeletons tumbling out of the IPL closet, a blue alert was declared against him last week, making him a fugitive who can be arrested from anywhere or detained at any airport. Srinivasan went a step further and filed an FIR against him with the Chennai police. This preceded an announcement by the Enforcement Directorate that they were mulling the option of issuing a “red alert” notice against Modi, under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), meaning a travel ban, revocation of passport and possible extradition from any foreign country.
Modi still continues to be defiant about the plethora of charges brought against him, as shown by his regular “tweets” from an annoymous location in England, and is also pulling out all stops to evade Interpol to and seek asylum in Iceland, a country whose First Lady is allegedly a close friend of his wife. He even tried to elevate himself to the position of Iceland’s consul-general in Mumbai, which could have insulated him from all legal proceedings, before his appeal was quashed by Indian authorities following highly adverse reports against him coming from none other than the Intelligence Bureau of India (IB). Perhaps even he realizes that the ground has already slipped beneath his feet and there’s no chance of making a return to his golden days again. It might be hard for him to stomach such a sudden decline from supreme power but the harsh reality is that the Modi regime in cricket has but bitten the dust.