Only characters like Phantom can right the wrongdoings in BCCI: Kirti Azad

As kids, people of our generation were brought up on the staple comic diet of Phantom and his various awe-inspiring exploits of taming villains.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is another story that requires the likes of Phantom to resolve and to throw out the long established freeloaders and politicians who have assumed control of the BCCI and various state associations, and are simply unshakeable.

Through various questions in Parliament, I have been trying to draw to the successive government’s attention the loot and mismanagement in BCCI, as indeed other sports bodies including Hockey India. But, I have felt the strong reaction of the well-entrenched vested interests that are just not willing to hand over charge to any professional or sportsperson.

On the last date of hearing in the Supreme Court, the amicus curiae brought to the bench’s notice the manipulation of elections in various associations such as Saurashtra and Delhi. He mentioned how cooks, drivers and their ilk were controlling state units and how it was impossible to topple the incumbents who had been holding sway for decades.

On a previous hearing, the bench had been told by the Saurashtra counsel that its secretary of 40 years, used to have a stationary shop before he took control of Saurashtra Cricket Association. Similarly, DDCA has been controlled by a tailor for 36 years. Look at Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, J&K, Gujarat, Maharashtra, et al.

The way adopted to make these sports bodies their personal fiefdoms is fairly common and relatively easy. From cricket to hockey to boxing to tennis, you name it, and we have non-sportspersons lording over sportspersons and they have been in the saddle for donkeys years.

The NCT Cricketers’ Association led by the legendary Bishan Singh Bedi had decided to contest elections to DDCA’s executive body three years ago and were trounced by the sitting clique led by petty shopkeepers and small-time businessmen, who have been perpetuating themselves over the last 35 years.

The amicus curiae, Gopal Subramanian, spoke about the manipulation of proxies in DDCA elections. One look at the members’ list and one can see how several members are stated to be residing at specific addresses. I had written vide my letter to Arun Jaitley, wherein I had specifically told him about the manipulation of DDCA’s members’ register and how, without proof, several members’ proxies were being misused after being directed to those specific addresses. He himself had a few non-blood relatives being shown as residents of his own house and several of his co-office bearers had several members shown to be living in their own houses – many are not even their relatives.

Even the Election Commission ensures that only genuine voters with Voter ID cards are allowed to be included in the authentic voters’ list. But, in DDCA, having residence proof is not necessary. It is clear that elections are being continuously manipulated by misusing the system of proxies.

While 95 per cent of the DDCA members stay in Delhi/NCR, the proxy system is employed in full force by DDCA office-bearers, who together control about 99 per cent of the total proxies. We have consistently brought this phenomenon to the notice of election officers but their attempt is always to push through the election despite blatant proof of difference in signatures and other infirmities.

It is a very organised and systematic rigging of election. Unless the Hon’ble Supreme Court provides for a different way of holding elections and direct the cleaning up of the Members’ Register.

There are reports that proxies relating to dead members are also used by some of these office bearers. Little wonder that these office bearers are not scared of being thrown out. It is a cosy club where many tainted chaps keep renewing friendships despite bitter rivalry over sharing of spoils, year after year.

What then is the way to involve sportspersons in the affairs of various sporting disciplines?

The biggest problem is that many of the bodies are registered either as Cooperative (under ROC) or, as Section 25 (Not for Profit) companies under the Companies Act (Section 8 of the New Companies Act). The elections to these bodies are extremely vitiated, with most members looking up to the same office bearers for continued patronage. Most of these members have been made by these very office-bearers and are their relatives, friends or employees.

Elections are, therefore, only a formality and are more often than not based on the proxy system. The results are a foregone conclusion. The answer is simple. Sport is a different ball game.

They cannot be allowed to be mixed up with the toothless Companies Act. The funding of sports bodies is through government grants, sale of tickets or through advertisements/ financial support of individuals/ corporate houses.

A separate law needs to be approved by Parliament or if that takes time, all the Sports Federations and BCCI’s state bodies should be asked to register themselves under the Societies Registration Act. Elections will have to perforce be conducted in a direct manner by the members present and voting.

After I followed up with the ministry of corporate affairs, they wrote to ministry of sports twice, advocating the above measure, and advising them to frame a separate law to govern various sports bodies, but they have just been sitting over this important issue for more than two years. Since this is a very important issue adversely affecting the health of Indian sports, I kept asking sports ministry to let me know as to the steps that they wished to take to stop the blatant misuse of the provisions of the Companies Act, Under Section 25.

Expectedly, I have not received any reply despite taking up this issue with the Minister and his bureaucrats several times. Obviously, for politicians, this is a minor issue and their interest lies in looking for greener pastures. But, for sportspersons, it means a lot. The ball is now in the Hon’ble Supreme Court’s court. I am sure that they will address this vexed issue once and for all.

(Kirti Azad is a member of India’s 1983 World Cup-winning team and current Member of Parliament. Views expressed here are personal and does not represent those of the website)