Although the Lodha Committee report on reforms in cricket was laced with good intentions, and a few constructive proposals, it fell short of what needed to be done to clean up the Board of Control for Cricket in India. Two of the critical issues that plague the Board relate to extreme political interference, and long, sometimes unending, tenures of its office bearers. On both these counts, the Committee failed to recommend reforms and crucial measures. In fact, it has retained gaping loopholes in the system that will allow politicians to continue their stranglehold over the cricket body.
The report hinted at the role of politics and politicians in the Board:
“The fact that forces from politics and business see cricket administration as a stepping stone to recognition and publicity is irrelevant to the cricket fan, until he realises, as many embittered souls recently have, that the game is not really being played on the cricket pitch.”
This observation pointed to politicians from various political parties who were, and are, linked with BCCI and Indian cricket.
Sharad Pawar (Nationalist Congress Party), Arun Jaitley (Bharatiya Janata Party), Amit Shah (BJP), Rajiv Shukla (Congress) and Anurag Singh Thakur (BJP) have stomped their way into the BCCI, and left behind their stamp. This was one of the reasons that the Board managed to resist any outside interference in its workings over the past two decades. Clearly, one of the foremost responsibilities of the Lodha Committee should have been to eject the politicians out of the BCCI.
Why just ministers?
Alas, this was not to be. The relevant recommendation it made was that the proposed Apex Council, a nine-member governing body, should be constituted to manage the Board. Of the individuals who were barred to be elected to the Council included “a minister or government servant”, or someone who “holds any post of another sports body in the country”. By default, politicians who were not ministers, could continue to run roughshod over the BCCI. The Lodha Committee thus saved the jobs of Shukla, who heads the Indian Premium League governing council, and Thakur, who is the secretary of BCCI.
It also allowed the likes of Shah, Pawar and Jaitley to continue to influence the inner workings of the Board. In addition, although the Committee felt that four “independent members” should be nominated or elected to the Apex Council, it kept the controls with the BCCI. The reason: apart from the five members, who would be the office bearers of the BCCI, one would be nominated by full members of the Board from “amongst themselves” and two – a male and a female – would be nominated by the proposed Players Association. It is difficult to assume that the these three nominated members would have the audacity to oppose the wishes and desires of the five office bearers of the BCCI. They would possibly behave like rubber stamps.
Another important suggestion in the Committee’s report was the restriction on the tenure of BCCI’s office bearers. It stated, “In order to ensure that the posts are not treated as permanent positions of power, each term should be for three years.” It added, “The total period for which a person can be a member of the Apex Council shall be nine years regardless of the capacity in which such position was or is occupied.” Finally, the report said, “However, in order to ensure that there is an appropriate cooling-off period, no person shall be a member of Apex Council for two consecutive terms.”
These recommendations were relevant because the former tainted and controversial BCCI President, N Srinivasan, had changed the rules that legally and technically allowed a President to continue in perpetuity, if he was elected by the members. However, by fixing each term for three years, the Lodha Committee reverted to the earlier rule of the Board, which stipulated that a President could be elected for a maximum of 2+1 years, or three years. In the past, it was observed that a term of three years allowed the outgoing BCCI President to assert indirect authority through a new President, who could be his friend, loyalist, or nominee.
What is more relevant is that the Lodha Committee failed to specify the extent of the so-called “cooling-off period”. Unfortunately, unless the Supreme Court makes some observations, or corrections, in the report, the BCCI will have a final say to define it. It can make it one year, which will allow the office bearers, especially President, to get a dummy in for 12 months, and come back for another three years. Since the total period proposed is for nine years, any powerful office bearer, especially a known politician, can thus directly and indirectly continue in the BCCI for 11 years.