New Delhi: In a sharp reaction to the criticism of the Central government over the India Premier League (IPL) issue, Union home minister P Chidambaram on Monday hit back at the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), saying that the cricket tournament was a “shrewd combination of sport and business” and there was no need to add politics to it.
A day after the BCCI announced that the second edition of the IPL was being shifted to a foreign country because of security issues in India, Chidambaram told a press conference that while he had no comment on that decision, he had read a number of statements which obliquely criticised the Central government. “These statements require an answer. Some unwarranted comments also deserve a rejoinder,” he added.
Taking on Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, who had described the shifting of the IPL out of India as a “national shame”, the home minister said that most people in India thought that the Gujarat communal riots of 2002 were a national shame.
To another BJP leader Arun Jaitley’s comments that the decision will send a negative message to the world and that the Congress-ruled states have been non-cooperative towards holding of IPL in India, Chidambaram said, “I know that Mr Jaitley has a penchant for exaggeration, but because he also wears the cap of the president of the DDCA he seems to have gone overboard this time.”
”Perhaps he has forgotten that several leaders of the NDA had expressed the view that the schedule of the IPL should be postponed until after the elections,” Chidambaram said.
On BCCI president Shashank Manohar’s claim that the government’s attitude forced the organisers to move the IPL out of the country, Chidambaram said, “If he was referring to the central government, the remark is entirely unwarranted. It is contrary to the letter of 4 March 2009, wherein N Srinivasan, secretary BCCI, said ‘we shall not ask for central para-military forces to provide security for matches´.
“If Manohar was referring to the state governments alone, I would like to remind him that state governments are ultimately responsible for maintaining law and order and providing security and one has to respect the judgment made by the state governments in this behalf,” he said.
“Chief Ministers are not backroom wizards. They have to take frontline responsibility for providing security. The central government has to respect their judgement. I may add that every state has expressed its reservations and also made it clear that full security can and will be provided after 16 May 2009,” he said.
Chidambaram maintained that India is safe for cricket and the only question was scheduling of the matches.
“I have repeatedly said that cricket - or any other game- when played in India is completely safe and all players will be provided full security. The question is when should the IPL matches be played,” Chidambaram said.
With IPL involving huge money, Chidambaram said, “It appears that IPL is more than a game. It is shrewd combination of sport and business. There is no reason to add politics to this combination,” he said.
Chidambaram said the home ministry had asked the hosts states for their views on the revised schedule but only three states and one union territory -- Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Punjab and Chandigarh -- responded.
To a question if he would ask the BCCI to reconsider the decision of shifting IPL outside the country, Chidambaram said, “no suggestion.”
He had the same answer when asked if he would suggest holding of the IPL matches after general elections.
In a surprise decision on Sunday, the BCCI which had an emergency working committee meeting, decided to shift the IPL to another country, most probably England or South Africa.
Chidambaram was scathing in his attack against Modi for calling the shifting of IPL as a “national shame”.
“What is a national shame? Most people in India think that the Gujarat communal riots in 2002 were a national shame. That the Supreme Court should have thought it fit to reject the investigations conducted by the Gujarat Police and to constitute an SIT to re-investigate 14 cases is a matter which brought shame to the fair name of Gujarat.
“When the SIT report filed before the Supreme Court is unveiled I have no doubt it will expose the inability of the Gujarat government in preventing the horrific incidents and its ineptitude in bringing to justice the perpetrators of the crimes,” he said.