Cricket row sparks tension between Cong and NCP

Cricket row sparks tension between Cong and NCP

As the ruling Congress wants the government to delve deep into the murky world of the IPL, the NCP is wary over the reports that the probe into the T20 cricket tournament might result in an embarrassment for its top leaders like Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar and Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel.

Pawar, a former chief of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), on Tuesday claimed that he had nothing to do with the IPL mess. Patel too echoed the NCP supremo and alleged that a section of the Congress was carrying out a “slanderous campaign” against him.

“The Congress party per se is not involved in the controversy; but a section of it is spreading a slanderous campaign against me,” Patel, who is also a general secretary of the NCP, told reporters outside Parliament.

The civil aviation minister also rubbished reports that he and Pawar had clandestine links with Videocon and Adani groups that had lost the bid for the IPL-4 in the March 21 auction in Chennai.

After making its Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor resign as the Minister of State for External Affairs, the Congress wants the government to thoroughly probe the sources and routes of the money being funnelled into the IPL. The Finance Ministry has already launched multi-pronged probes into the cricket tournament and the sources and routes of the funding of its franchises.

As initial probes reportedly fuelled suspicion that the son-in-law of a Cabinet minister might have been linked with one of the groups that had lost the bidding for the next round of the IPL, both Pawar’s family and the party strongly reacted on Tuesday.

“I say with full conviction that my husband (Sadanand Sule) or family has nothing to do with any of these issues. We always stay miles away from it. Yes, we are avid cricket watchers, my husband, my kids, my family all and that’s where the buck stops,” Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule — also an MP — said.

When the Income Tax department officials raided the IPL headquarters in Mumbai, they reportedly found the documents related to the bidding by Videocon and Adani groups missing.  Patel denied reports that he was a “proxy owner” of an IPL team. “I do not have anything to do with cricket, IPL, BCCI or the bidding process. There is no question of my holding any kind of stake,” he said. “My daughter works as a junior intern with the IPL and that’s the extent of my involvement,” he added.

The NCP leader welcomed the government’s decision to conduct a thorough probe into the IPL and said the investigation would reveal the truth.  

Sule said Pawar, now a vice-president of the International Cricket Council (ICC), had played a neutral role in the spat between Tharoor and Lalit Modi and it would be wrong to say that he had backed the IPL commissioner only.

Pawar on Tuesday had a meeting with Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Home Minister P Chidambaram.

Since the NCP has nine MPs in the Lok Sabha and shares power with it in Maharashtra, the Congress may have to finally tread cautiously on the probe into the IPL to make it sure that its findings did not cause embarrassment to its crucial ally.

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