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In His Father’s Muddy Court

A combative Ruchir Modi aims for his father’s post of Rajasthan cricket chief. But is he his own man?

In His Father’s Muddy Court
Helmsman
Lalit Modi with Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje
Photograph by P. Lashkari
In His Father’s Muddy Court
outlookindia.com
2017-04-29T10:43:05+0530

He is 22, has never played cricket in his life and he is fighting for the post of president of the Rajasthan Cricket Association in its forthcoming elections. Ruchir Modi’s only claim to fame is that he is the son of the enfant terrible of Indian cricket, Lalit Modi. He has no hesitation in admitting now that everyone knew that he was aiming for the top chair the moment he became president of the Alwar District Cricket Association last year. Nepotism has been rampant in the history of Indian cricket governance, but if Ruchir does get elec­ted, bruising questions will be asked. Lalit Modi, whom the BCCI banned for financial swindling in 2013, himself says he tried discouraging his son from contesting. But Ruchir insists it was his own decision.

When asked if this wasn’t a way to take control of RCA, since Lalit Modi can’t contest as per Lodha Committee recommendations, Ruchir denies the charge. “My father will have zero influence on my decisions. Yes, I’ll be seeking advice from him but I’m my own man and I would suggest that you wait and watch in the coming years and then make your judgement. Experience can come only with time and I am willing to learn. My very first agenda is to take the BCCI-RCA relationship forward,” he says.

However, it seems it wouldn’t be easy for Ruchir due to a couple of factors: his total inexperience and the fact that RCA has a turbulent history, with coup-related dramas often the norm. His father found that out since first becoming RCA president in 2005. To begin with, Ruchir could face veteran Congress politician and former Rajasthan chief minister C.P. Joshi, also a former RCA president. Ruchir is, however, unperturbed of the opposition. “Yes, I am ready to take on the challenges in my way to victory. I have my own vision for which I would go beyond my capabilities to make sure I achieve them. The whole idea is to move away from politics and play in the right spirit of the game,” says Ruchir, in the same combative tone of his father.

There have been instances of sons taking over from fathers in cricket boards before. Former BCCI president A.C. Muthiah, for instance, was also a son of an ex-president of the Board. But his father was the renowned industrialist M.A. Chidambaram, who was BCCI president from 1960-61 to 1962-63 and its treasurer for 26 years, not a fugitive on the run from the country. Muthiah says he never took advantage of his fat­her’s position, either in the companies he ran or in cricket, but rose through his hard work. Plus, he makes another important point: “When I came into the BCCI my father was completely out of it, and there was no legacy. I came on my own. I was in TNCA and from there I got into the Board. I did NOT come just because my father was a past (BCCI and TNCA) president or treasurer,” the Chennai-based business tycoon tells Outlook.

Some administrators think if Ruchir is elected president, Lalit Modi will manage RCA with remote control through his son.

But what experience does Ruchir have, barely out of his teens? “I must say that I was exposed to cricket at a very young age and since then I have interacted with BCCI members at the centre and state level. Many knew I was planning to head RCA and I was overwhelmed by the amount of support I received,” says Ruchir. Not everyone agrees. Vivek Vyas, an RCA vice-president and part of the C.P. Joshi group opposing the Modis, says there are many experienced administrators in Rajasthan. “Here, we have much more experienced people, those who have spent their lives administering cricket. Amid such people, you are bringing in your 22-year-old son. His only qualification is that he is son of Lalit Modi. Other than that, he has never even played primary cricket. It’s an example of promoting one’s family members. We’ve told him that this practice is not healthy. But Modi doesn’t trust anyone except his son,” says Vyas.

Vyas points out that even if Ruchir gets elected, the BCCI wouldn’t take RCA back in its fold, as long as Lalit Modi is part of the RCA. He also says he has no problem with Ruchir as such, though he raises questions over the method he adopted to become Alwar cricket president. “The moot question is that till the time Lalit Modi remains president of the Nagaur District Cricket Association, the BCCI will not revoke RCA’s suspension (RCA was suspended immediately after Modi was expelled by the BCCI in 2013) because he is head of one of the RCA’s primary bodies. So, it is not correct that he is bringing his son to remove his impediments. He may not be contesting for the top RCA post, but he hasn’t resigned as Nagaur’s president till the time the election process started. Modi is definitely imposing his son on RCA,” he emphasises. Vyas claims the majo­rity among the RCA’s 33 constituent districts is with Lalit Modi’s opposite camp, led by C.P. Joshi.

Outside Rajasthan, too, some cricket administrators feel Lalit Modi would manage the RCA with remote control. “Ruchir must contest only once his father’s name is cleared. If he contests now, I don’t think he will get support, because there are some very experienced people who have served the association for a long time,” says R. Sudhakar Rao, secretary of Karnataka State Cricket Association. “Since Ruchir is not experienced at all, Lalit will be there behind the scene and will guide him. It is not fair to contest when his father’s name has not been cleared by the Indian investigating agencies,” he says. Former Mumbai Cricket Association president Ravi Sav­ant concurs with Rao. “It is not proper because then you are trying to retain your control through your son. And what is the son’s contribution? Has he played cricket? If not, then you are trying to keep your control for the sake of it. If he is a cricketer and if he is fighting the election for the honour of his father then it’s a different thing,” says Savant.

The RCA elections were scheduled for April 26, but were postponed after the Lodha Committee recommendations couldn’t be incorporated in the existing RCA constitution, as it clashes with the Rajasthan Sports Act. Last heard, the state government had started work on merging Lodha recommendations into the Sports Act. Till it is actually done—and elections held—the suspe­nse over Ruchir Modi’s future in the RCA will remain.

***

Charges against Lalit Modi

  • The Enforcement Directorate showcause notice to Modi, BCCI, Shashank Manohar for payment of Rs.243 crore made by BCCI to Cricket South Africa for staging 2009 in IPL in South Africa
  • Whether $25 million of the $80 million facilitation fee paid by Multi Screen Media to World Sports Group was routed into the illegal accounts of Modi
  • Lalit Modi, BCCI and other officials contravened certain provisions of the FEMA, amounting to Rs 89 crore
  • Allegation against Modi that he had told some bidders how much to bid during the first IPL team auction in 2008 for Rajasthan Royals
  • ED is probing whether Modi has used illegal money to buy his corporate jet through a Cayman Islands Company
  • Apart from ED, a BCCI disciplinary committee in 2013 charged him on eight counts, on the basis of which he was expelled from the Board that year
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