The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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MPs take the bat to Chappell
Coach’s foot put in his mouth

New Delhi, Nov. 27: Even after the cash-for-questions scandal, where 11 of their own stand accused, MPs bristle with anger at suggestions — though Greg Chappell did not make one — that they get paid to raise issues in the House.

An almighty row erupted in Parliament today and elsewhere — the Bengal Assembly included — over a Chappell comment.

After India’s dismal defeat in Cape Town yesterday, the coach was asked about MPs publicly talking about the team’s poor performance.

He said: “I am not surprised. They (MPs) are paid to do so.”

It was an innocuous answer that simply said MPs would raise issues since it’s their job to do so. “Paid” is just another way of putting it and not to suggest that they get bribed to ask questions, which is how it is being interpreted.

In Parliament, almost all parties went after the coach with a heavy bat, but the team from Bengal was the most vocal as they found a way of venting their anger at Sourav Ganguly being dropped.

There was even talk of a privilege motion against Chappell. Renuka Chowdhury, despite being a minister, said: “If MPs are willing, a privilege motion can be moved.”

But she did not have the support of her party. “It is not the job of political parties to comment on cricket. Those concerned should take note of it and react,” Janardhan Dwivedi, Congress general secretary, said.

Gurudas Dasgupta, the CPI member opening for the Bengal team in the House, said Chappell had “no business” making such comments. “He does not understand the nuances of Indian democracy.”

Vijay Kumar Malhotra, of the BJP, agreed. “Nowadays it has become a fashion to speak against MPs.”

So what was so offensive about Chappell’s comment' Mohammad Salim, of the CPM, said MPs have a right to judge the coach but the coach does not have a right to react this way.

“Chappell is on a contractual appointment. His assessment is based on the performance of the team. If the team cannot perform, people have the right to criticise.”

Salim left it to the board to take action. “They appointed the coach. Now it is up to them.”

Sharad Pawar, the agriculture minister and the cricket board president, however, defended Chappell. He accused TV channels of instigating MPs, saying the coach’s remarks were “misinterpreted”.

“This is a game and one should not give disproportionate importance to it,” Pawar added despite the fact that the busy politician that he is, he has chosen to be a cricket administrator.

As in Parliament, so in the Bengal Assembly. Sports minister Subhas Chakraborty demanded an apology from Chappell.

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