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Other Modi pads up, BCCI bristles

Lalit Modi

Jaipur, Dec. 16: Lalit Modi, the fallen IPL czar, has made an audacious comeback bid, setting up a fresh confrontation with the cricket board.

Modi, who has been staying in London since he was toppled from the helm of the IPL, today filed his nomination for the election for the president of the Rajasthan Cricket Association.

A livid Board of Control for Cricket in India struck back by sending a letter to RCA president and Congress leader C.P. Joshi, threatening to strip the association of its rights as a BCCI member if it allowed Modi to remain an office-bearer of one of its district units.

Although banned for life by the BCCI for alleged financial bungling when he headed the IPL, Modi had filed the nomination on the back of a post in a district unit. Scrutiny will be held tomorrow and withdrawals accepted on Wednesday. Polling will be held between 11am and 2pm on Thursday.

If Modi’s nomination is cleared, sources said, there was a good chance the BCCI would call a special general meeting to throw out Rajasthan. If Modi is elected to the helm of the RCA and the association remains untouched, it will give him or his nominee a voice at BCCI meetings.

Rajasthan High Court had stayed the BCCI ban in October but the restraint was lifted in early this month, which means there is no legal bar on the board right now to act. However, Modi’s legal team has said that the Rajasthan association is being governed by a state law, not the BCCI’s bylaws.

Although several observers jumped to the easy conclusion that Modi’s comeback bid and the return of Vasundhara Raje to power in Rajasthan are linked, BJP sources said the chief minister, who once shared a good rapport with him, had nothing to do with the current developments.

“Raje had distanced herself from Lalit Modi sometime ago and there is little to suggest till now that she had anything to do with his attempt to get elected to the state association. It will be a mistake to say that the current election bid enjoys the blessings of the chief minister,” a BJP source said in Delhi.

Some political sources suggested that the administrative style of Joshi, the former central minister close to Rahul Gandhi, might have alienated several cricket officials and Modi could be using the discontent to try and regain a toehold in the sporting establishment.

One reason for the political speculation is an ordinance issued in 2005, when Raje was chief minister, which helped propel Modi to the helm of the RCA — the launch pad from where he eventually built the IPL empire.

The ordinance, which later became law, took away the voting capacity of 59 RCA members and confined the right to 33 voters from the district associations. The change helped Modi unseat the Rungtas who had been running the state association for decades.

According to the Rajasthan Sports Act, only an office-bearer of a district association is eligible to contest. The president, secretary and treasurer are valid office-bearers. Modi is still the president of Nagaur District Association and has claimed the support of 24 of the 33 district associations.

Modi today confirmed his nomination on Twitter. “Yes I have filed and been nominated by 24 members of Rajasthan Cricket Assoc for Presidentship. Looking forward to the elections day after,” Modi tweeted. “It’s time to restore RCA as the foremost cricketing association in India — looking forward to taking up this new challenge.”

But a letter from BCCI secretary Sanjay Patel to the RCA said: “We find that the Nagaur Cricket Association has allowed Lalit Modi as President. We wish to remind you that as per the BCCI rules and regulations, all the members, including RCA, are bound to follow the decision taken and directives issued in the interest of BCCI, especially those related to disciplinary proceedings.

“The RCA stands to lose its rights and privileges as BCCI member if the expelled administrator of BCCI is allowed to remain an office-bearer of one of your district units. Therefore, kindly comply to BCCI directives and report the same to us.”

Modi’s nomination for the December 19 election was filed by his lawyer, Mehmood Abdi, who is himself contesting for vice-president.

Modi’s lawyer Abdi said: “I have said umpteen times that Lalit Modi is eligible to fight the RCA elections. His name is already in the eligibility list as president of Nagaur District Cricket Association. Moreover, RCA is governed by Rajasthan Sports Act 2005. BCCI is simply a registered body and its bylaws cannot prevail over the law of land.”

The lawyer claimed that it was the return of Raje that had encouraged Modi to jump into the fray. “The change in political scenario has prompted Lalit Modi to fight elections because BJP chief minister Vasundhara Raje had been very positive during her first tenure and we hope to continue with the same positive relationship,” he said.

“Modi has security concerns, so we won’t be seeing him here for some time but he can contest,” Abdi added.

Asked if the RCA would be run with Modi in absentia in case he won the poll, he said: “There is no need for him to be physically present all the time. He has a team under him and it can work under his guidance and leadership.”