New Delhi: It is surprising that nobody has made the link between the corrupt and venal United Progressive Alliance regime and the contaminated mafia sports body called the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and the dodgy tournament it runs for fatcats and filmstars named the Indian Premier League or IPL. The League is headed by a minister in the Manmohan Singh government, Rajiv Shukla (disclosure: he was this writer’s colleague in Sunday magazine), and that should make the whole thing profoundly suspect. On the other hand, the BCCI president, N.Srinivasan, a cement magnate, who also owns an IPL team led by the India captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, is close to the former Tamil Nadu chief minister, M.Karunanidhi, and his family, including the Maran brothers, who are being investigated for the 2G and other telecom scams. If after all these dirty political linkages, Indian cricket had remained clean, it would have been a small miracle. There is also the old saying, “One rotten fish spoils the whole pond.” In a general way, the United Progressive Alliance regime of nine years has lowered the threshold for corruption and venality. Among the other things it has corroded is Indian cricket, the game beloved of millions in this country. The IPL betting and spot-fixing scandals are not only about cheating and assaulting a symbol of national sporting identity but concern the impairment of national security with their links to the Pakistani terror dons based in Dubai. Indian cricket must be ruthlessly cleansed and its links with corrupt and venal politics and terrorism sundered once for all.

When Rajiv Shukla used his clout to bring over the Pakistanis for a cricket fixture, sovereign relations with Pakistan were under deep strain, as they remain since the beheading of an Indian soldier along the Line of Control. This writer and this magazine were alone in the media to oppose the India-Pakistan match. Shukla cleverly roped in Arun Jaitley of the Bharatiya Janata Party in this decision so that the principal opposition party was left with no ground to counter it when it should have. And Shukla and the N.Srinivasan-led BCCI were solely motivated by low commerce to get the Pakistanis over. If terrorists had come along in the team, that was fine. Boorishly and insensitively, Shukla spoke of the eagerness of Indian and Pakistani fans for an Indo-Pak contest forgetting national interest. Do you think the shame brought by the IPL spot-fixing scandal affects Shukla and Srinivasan? Not a bit. Shukla is making the right noises after being in hiding and Srinivasan has hunkered down in a hill station since the betting scandal singed his son-in-law.

What made Srinivasan and Shukla reckless and virtual scofflaws was the environment of corruption, venality and permissiveness bred by the United Progressive Alliance regime of Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh. This is a regime which has destroyed the national economy and plundered national resources. Srinivasan and Shukla carried that trend to cricket which for all purposes is a national game. They obtained through dubious ways monopoly control over the game and permitted every libertine activity so long it was money-spinning. What is the two-point agenda of the United Progressive Alliance leadership? Hold on to power by hook or by crook and loot the country. The bosses of BCCI and IPL were moved by the same high ideals with respect to cricket. The result is there for all to see.

Bombay police have told the court that the hundreds of crores generated by IPL betting and fixing are routed to Pakistani terror groups via the Dubai hawala channel. The early identification of the Dawood Ibrahim gang in the fixing alerted to the terror links and more evidence is pouring in. When the stakes are so high in a game, it becomes an explosive cocktail for the rich and powerful to feed off the frenzy. Earlier, the terror dons used their money to muscle into the Bombay film world. Then they moved into the private airline sector (East-West Airlines’ MD was killed by the underworld) and the stock market. Cricket fascinated the dons especially of Bombay so IPL fixing became big assisted by the low culture pushed into the game by Srinivasan and Shukla. But it becomes a national concern when the likes of Arun Jaitley are drawn into this murky world by the glamour brought by cricket administration. How can Jaitley, a PM aspirant, keep the company of men like Srinivasan and Shukla? It would be appropriate for the Bharatiya Janata Party to take a call on this to prevent being bracketed with the venal ruling dispensation.

And Indian cricket needs a brand new beginning.