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Modi-Raje rift: a back-story about friendship and cricket politics

Catch Team | Updated on: 23 June 2015, 15:35 IST

After External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, IPL founder Lalit Modi has got Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje in a storm.

While the current controversy over all those who helped him get travel documents rages, it's interesting to recall their back-story and when the first cracks in their friendship became apparent.

The links between Raje and Modi first came to light in 2005, during the BJP leader's first term at the helm of the state.

Modi wanted to step into the world of cricket politics and got a much-needed push from family friend Raje.

A sports bill was introduced by the Rajasthan government in 2005 to facilitate Modi's entry into the Rajasthan Cricket Association (RCA). That was the year he became president of the Nagaur District Cricket Association, under the name Lalit Kumar. Soon, Modi got elected as president of the RCA.

The sole purpose of the bill was to end the four-decade old monopoly of the powerful Rungta family over the association. It took away voting rights from individual members, and gave the power of selecting the RCA president and the other office-bearers to secretaries of the various district cricket associations.

Prior to this, Modi had also tried to enter cricket bodies in Punjab and Himachal Pradesh, with little success. But after taking over the reins of the RCA, his influence in the Board of Control for Cricket in India started to increase.

A sports bill was introduced by Raje's govt in 2005 to facilitate Modi's entry into state cricket association

The pinnacle came in 2008, when his idea came to fruition in the form of the Indian Premier League, of which he became the chairman and commissioner. For three seasons, he presided over the high-octane action and the off-field razzmatazz like a king.

But in 2009, he was removed from his positions by his former allies in the Board, owing to ever-growing charges of financial irregularities, and after he infamously leaked sensitive shareholding information about two new franchises, including Kochi Tuskers Kerala, on Twitter.

The BCCI also banned him from all its affiliated units.

Influence on politics

Modi's influence was not limited to cricket alone. He used Raje's name freely to get his way. Modi also found a say in many important affairs of the state government. Even the top guns of the bureaucracy feared risking his ire by going against his wishes.

The Congress even accused him of making many major deals on behalf of Raje. It was said he used a room in the Rambagh Palace Hotel in Jaipur exclusively for this purpose.


Cracks appear

Modi regained his post as president of the RCA just before the state assembly elections in 2013. Sensing a BJP wave, most district associations deserted former Union minister C P Joshi and switched allegiance to Modi.

He managed to win the RCA election while living in England, and the BCCI retaliated by suspending the affiliated body. Rajasthan and its refurbished Sawai Man Singh Stadium in Jaipur was refused the hosting rights of any international or IPL matches.

However, Modi continued to manage the affairs of the state association from England, via deputy president and his personal attorney, Mehmood M Abdi.

Modi used Raje's name freely to get his way. He also found a say in important affairs of the state govt

Barely a year had passed when word began to spread that not everything was alright between Modi and Raje.

The rumour only gained strength when Rajasthan BJP leader Amin Pathan openly revolted against Modi in October 2014.

Eventually, a no-confidence motion was brought against Modi in March this year. Apart from Modi, Abdi and the other office-bearers too were shown the door. The Modi camp cried foul, claiming they were prevented from attending the meeting at the RCA Academy in Jaipur, and deemed it a conspiracy. The matter is still pending in court.

The unanswered question in all of this is, why did Modi lose Raje's patronage? In a world closely policed by the influential, who gave the signal that Modi was out and Amin Pathan was in?

With inputs from Piyush Kulshreshtha, Rajasthan Patrika, Jaipur.

First published: 18 June 2015, 2:55 IST