Why N Srinivasan distanced himself from Gurunath Meiyappan to remain defiant

N Srinivasan has made his intensions clear about contesting the BCCI presidential polls © PTI

On Saturday, the BCCI boss chose to distance himself from son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan after he was chargesheeted by the Mumbai police. N Srinivasan made his intentions clear ahead of contesting the BCCI Presidential polls. Abhijit Banare analyses Srinivasan’s defiant journey and the reasons for holding on to his post.

In March 2013, Samajwadi party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav had predicted early national polls thereby suggesting that the government won’t last its full term. Few months later he changed his stance and said the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) will survive its full term. This prompted popular satirical site Faking News to comment, which roughly went as follows:  ‘Traffic Police to replace U-turn sign boards at signals with Mulayam Singh’s images’.

When N Srinivasan chose to distance himself from son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan, he achieved nothing less than what Mulayam did. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) chief had stated that Meiyappan was a “cricket enthusiast” and had brushed aside any wrongdoing.

The u-turn comes right after the ‘alleged’ team principal of the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) was chargesheeted by the Mumbai Police for his alleged involvement in betting during the sixth edition of Indian Premier League (IPL). While Srinivasan chose to change his stance with just one statement, his words indicate more than it appears and this article tries to explore the reasons for the BCCI chief’s brazen u-turn. Known for his rigidness and never-say-die attitude, the ultimate importance for him is keeping his post intact. There comes the first hurdle of the issue. With elections set to take place during the Annual General Meeting (AGM) in the last week of September, it’s a cautious walk for Srinivasan to be seen doing the right things. And fortunately for him he is likely to succeed.

According to a report by the Times of India, there are high chances that Srinivasan may get elected unopposed since the decision to elect the chief for one more year is in the hands of South Zone. Out of the six associations in the zone, he has secured himself with support of everyone except Goa. This shoddy method of rotation policy in heading the board has ensured that he is unlikely to face strong opposition despite the atmosphere within the board against him in majority. The writing was on the wall when some of the most credible cricket administrators like Sanjay Jagdale and Ajay Shirke couldn’t stomach the happenings within the most powerful cricket association. Yet, Srinivasan was unperturbed.

During his hey days, he enjoyed enough confidence from the majority of the associations which received enough financial backing. And when the tide turned rough, it was obliged to hold fort. Since the issue turned sour with the buck landing right at his door, whispers and gossips were already around calling for Srinivasan’s head. Apart from state associations, his own lieutenant Rajeev Shukla softly stated that his boss to step aside. Still the big man didn’t budge.

One of the prime reasons for this is, in India there are many examples where people in power have virtually remained untouched by investigative agencies, but once they are off their chair, they hardly manage to stage a comeback and get entangled in the process of various wrongdoings they’ve committed. Politics is replete with such examples. In this context, from a purely selfish point of view, it is absolutely essential for Srinivasan to hold on to his chair. At present he is into a possible checkmate situation from three sides: cases of financial irregularities under his tenure as treasurer, the muck splashing on him following his son-in-law’s arrest, and the conflict of interest as BCCI chief and vested interest in an IPL franchisee.

Even the court had censured the probe carried out by the privileged few on the IPL spot-fixing scandal which came as a resounding slap after much fanfare about conducting a fair probe. It is likely that the arrogance and ability to exercise power won’t remain the same if he is no more at the top post. Remaining in the corridors of powerful position through legal means insulates him from being affected by the massive outrage against him.

It is in the above context, Srinivasan didn’t blink one bit to distance himself completely from the betting case Meiyappan finds himself in. It’s a complex web he has spun around himself and yet remains confident of contesting the elections.

Another highlight of Srinivasan during this controversy is, he has managed to hold his ground despite a ‘hounding’ media baying for his blood. Unlike politicians whose power can be highly fluctuating based on public sentiments, national outrage and trial by media, Srinivasan’s fate isn’t decided by these conventional methods. BCCI is a private body which works behind closed doors, and the state associations are the one that fill up the numbers that matter.

And the Chennai boss has covered this end up as discussed above regarding his candidature from the South Zone. And it is important for him to enjoy their [associations’] confidence rather than go in a nutshell against the hounding media. Hence, you saw a Rajeev Shukla, part of the brittle Congress, giving up his IPL commissioner post to avoid courting perception troubles and the president hanging on without any worries.

The end at all costs attitude for Srinivasan in the run-up to the BCCI presidential elections will continue to damage the credibility of the board. He hardly speaks to the media. And whenever he does, it’s more or less a one way communication. But Ravi Shastri echoed at the Dilip Sardesai Memorial lecture what Srinivasan might have chosen to state: “Make no mistake, here’s another terrific administrator. I know he came under a lot of heat in recent times but he is a genuine genuine cricket lover and a sports lover who has contributed immensely. Lot of people asked me after the IPL, ‘Ravi, what do you think, should Mr Srinivasan have resigned?’ I look at that bloke and say, you know what if I was in the position of the Board of Control for Cricket in India president or if I was captain of the team that had these three players caught for match-fixing or if I was head of a political party where the sequence of events were similar, there was no freaking way I would have resigned. I am not from that school. I am from a school where you take the responsibility and get the house back in order.”

In contrast to the statement, the captain of the team with the three tainted cricketers has already declared his decision to conclude his IPL career expressing his disappointment openly. Perhaps the captain of the BCCI will prefer to clean the house and get it back in order until the controversies get buried. As for the fans, it looks like they will have to wait some more time for a change of guard in cricket.

(Abhijit Banare is a reporter at CricketCountry. He is an avid quizzer and loves to analyse and dig out interesting facts which allows him to learn something new every day. Apart from cricket he also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed on Twitter and blog)