Cricket chief shut out of TV deals
Lanka ceasefire solution awaits willing broker
Tired of waiting, CBI to call Manoj
Sonia sends nominee jolt to Ghani

May 7 
Starting with Jagmohan Dalmiya, International Cricket Council presidents have been barred from taking part in negotiations for selling telecast rights.

The Sunday Telegraph of London reported today that Dalmiya, ICC president, had been voted off the council�s powerful marketing and finance committee. Dalmiya, who has only five weeks to go before stepping down as president, is a member of the committee that met in Paris to negotiate the sale of television and Internet rights for the World Cups in South Africa in 2003 and the West Indies in 2007. Three bids have been shortlisted, the price offered reportedly topping $ 500 million.

On his return to Calcutta, Dalmiya admitted that ICC presidents would no longer be on the committee, but denied he had be-en �voted off� at a meeting of the council�s executive board in London on May 2-3 to discuss action over match-fixing allegations.

�There can�t be a bigger lie or a bigger (false) allegation, since I am now coming from Paris, where the finance committee meeting was held, and I attended that me-eting as ICC president,� he said.

On the flight back from Paris, Dalmiya met I.S. Bindra, former Indian cricket chief, and his sworn enemy. �There is generally not much exchanged socially...but Mr Bindra seemed very shocked (to learn Dalmiya was coming from Paris).�

The newspaper said Dalmiya was on hand in Paris in a consultative capacity as a concession granted to him by the ICC, but did not attend the negotiations.

Dalmiya dismissed the suggestion, alleging that the paper had �deliberately twisted the facts to defame me�. The ICC chief said he had already served a legal notice. �I am applying to the government of India for sanction of foreign exchange to enable me to sue the concerned newspaper and the writer abroad,� he said.

Dalmiya conceded that the ICC meeting in London had decided that financial negotiations should be conducted by the chairman of the finance committee and the ICC chief executive. But, he said: �This decision will affect all, the president-elect Malcolm Gray and all to follow. Whatever happened at the executive board meeting will be clear from the minutes.�

The newspaper quoted Lord MacLaurin, chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board, as saying: �Sir John Anderson (the chairman of New Zealand Cricket) and I proposed that the president should not � now or in the future � take part in any financial negotiations on behalf of the board, and it was unanimously agreed.�

Dalmiya, who chaired that meeting, said the decision was taken �since baseless allegations were aired against the ICC president�. He was referring to charges levelled against him by Anil Aggarwal, former financial advisor to Doordarshan, who accused him of defrauding the state-run television of $ 4 million in the telecast deal for the ICC knockout tournament in Dhaka in 1998.

�The (ICC) executive board qu-ite rightly thought that the position of the president and the president-elect must be protected from such allegations,� Dalmiya said.

After ICC�s London meeting, its chief executive, David Richards, had given Dalmiya a clean chit, saying that he was not involved in negotiations for the Dhaka telecast rights with any of the bidders � Doordarshan (which employed a company called Stracon to quote on its behalf), TWI, WorldTel and CSI.

The Daily Telegraph has challenged Richards� statement. It quoted a report written on March 10, 1998, by Rakesh Bahadur, who was then deputy director-general (commercial and sports) of DD.

In the letter, Bahadur said: �It had become very clear in Calcutta that TWI were also going to increase their bid amount and Mr Bill Sindrich of TWI, London, was constantly in touch with Mr Dalmia (sic). The revenue-sharing formula was arrived at after consultations with Mr Dalmia. This revised bid offer was acceptable to the ICC and communication to this effect was given by Mr Dalmia on 5 March, 1998.

�I....then proceeded to Calcutta where I and Mr Siddarth Ray of M/s Stracon had detailed discussions with Mr Dalmia on 3/4/5th March 1998.�    

May 7 
Opinion grew across the globe that a ceasefire in Jaffna is the best possible solution to the muddle in Sri Lanka, but no country has made an unequivocal offer to play the negotiator and bell the Tamil Tigers.

India, the US, Britain and Norway � which was preparing the ground for mediation � feel that cessation of hostilities now will allow both Sri Lanka and the LTTE some leeway to manoeuvre themselves towards talks.

Foreign minister Jaswant Singh hinted during a television interview tonight that Delhi was not averse to playing a role, �if all sides asked for it�. � I do not think India has ever been a dishonest broker,� he added.

But asked whether India would mediate, Singh evaded a direct reply, saying: �Playing the ro-le of a negotiator can come only when the Sri Lankan government requires, determines and decides there is such a role to be played�.

Speculation was rife in the Lanka media that India was ready to be a �third-party� broker and poised to air-drop supplies. The expectations were fired by reports that two cargo planes were standing by at a base in Kerala.

Amid the swirling rumours, Indian Air Force chief A.Y. Tipnis left for Lanka on a five-day visit. Tipnis is accompanied by his wife.

Defence officials were at pains to delink the visit from the Jaffna crisis and pointed out that it was finalised much earlier. But AFP quoted a source as saying Tipnis would visit the strategic Lankan air base of Anuradhapura.

Singh�s caution-coated response reflects the dilemma confronting India and others on taking the lead in talking with the LTTE leadership.

Norway, which has considerable influence over an important segment within the LTTE, could have initiated a back-channel dialogue. But, officially at least, India does not want Norway to intervene. Sri Lanka, too, has reservations.

India�s problem lies in a paradox: it can neither support third-party mediation nor stay a silent spectator for too long. It is opposed to external mediation, gi-ven its touchiness about Kashmir.

But India has been at the forefront of a global campaign against terrorism since the Kargil and Kandahar crises. Delhi is also signatory to a number of international treaties on terrorism and its own Comprehensive Convention on Terrorism is awaiting approval at the UN. It is worried that inaction on Sri Lanka could be misconstrued as support to one terrorist group while condemning others in its own territory.

The government does not want to reveal its cards � unless something dramatic happens on the battlefront tonight � when it exchanges notes with the Opposition tomorrow. It will stick to its public posture of being ready to send humanitarian aid, if sought.

Rally crackdown

The DMK government today banned a pro-LTTE rally in Chidambaram, a town in north Tamil Nadu, and took Pazha Nedumaran, a vocal supporter of the Tiger lobby, into custody.

The rally was aimed at demanding the Centre�s support for the Tamil militants. The state refused permission for the rally, but Nedumaran and his 200 supporters were arrested when they sought to defy the ban. A dozen people were also held in Chennai for �printing and pasting� pro-LTTE posters.

Observers believe that the Tiger lobby was testing the waters after the Elephant Pass capture on possible Indian military intervention.    

Calcutta, May 7 
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is set to �summon� Manoj Prabhakar in the next couple of days.

According to well-placed sources of The Telegraph, the CBI won�t wait for Prabhakar to take the initiative, though his stated position remains �I-will-go-to-the-CBI.�

�The whole thing has become a hot potato, more so after the Union home minister (L.K.Advani) has himself stepped in,� acknowledged a New Delhi-based source, this evening.

It is understood the summons, part of the CBI�s �preliminary inquiry� into allegations of match-fixing against Indian cricketers, could even be issued as early as tomorrow.

Prabhakar, it may be recalled, announced (last Thursday) he would speak to the CBI after former Board president Inderjit Singh Bindra�s sensational interview on CNN. He was then in Lucknow.

However, even though Prabhakar returned to Delhi the next day, he still hasn�t met anybody in the CBI. Incidentally, a joint-director (IG-rank) is handling the match-fixing file.

Bindra�s allegation, that national coach Kapil Dev offered the Rs 25 lakh inducement to Prabhakar (in September 1994), was obliquely confirmed by Advani himself last night.

Addressing media personnel in Nagpur, Advani said: �Prabhakar had mentioned the name (Kapil) which newspapers have reported... I told him he should give this information to the investigators.�

Prabhakar revealed Kapil�s identity during a meeting with Advani in Delhi, where BJP MP Kirti Azad, too, was present. The meeting took place just days before the government launched the CBI inquiry.

Significantly, Advani has unwittingly provided Bindra �- who has been served a legal notice by Kapil�s lawyers �- some respite. Now, Bindra�s lawyers can argue the same explanation should be sought from Advani as well!

Sources insist the CBI inquiry, begun after a formal communique from the Union sports ministry, �won�t be allowed to die a quiet death.�

As a source pointed out: �Compared to some of the other probes, the public pressure this time is already acute. Eventually, this alone will make a big difference.�

The CBI will file a �regular case� once the preliminary inquiry indicates there has been misconduct of a criminal nature    

New Delhi, May 7 
The rift in West Bengal Congress widened further today with Sonia Gandhi deciding to field a candidate for the crucial Panskura Lok Sabha byelection.

Giving a jolt to the mahajot, the party chief ignored a letter from A.B.A. Ghani Khan Chowdhury, listing the reasons why the party should back the Trinamul-BJP candidate. Chowdhury said the Congress was weak in Panskura and if it fielded a candidate, it would only help the Left Front by splitting Opposition votes.

Sonia was swayed by a letter from Priya Ranjan Das Munshi, arguing against any understanding with the BJP. He said any direct or indirect alliance with the �communal� party will tarnish the Congress� �secular� credentials.

The last date for nominations for the Panskura Lok Sabha seat, which was held by veteran CPI leader Geeta Mukherjee who died recently, is Tuesday. The Congress is likely to announce the name of its candidate by tomorrow. Party sources expect Subhankar Sarkar, president of Chhatra Parishad, Congress� student wing, to be nominated.

Asked who the Congress candidate will be at Panskura, Pranab Mukherjee said: �We have decided to field our own nominee. The name of the candidate will be announced tonight or tomorrow. The announcement may come from Calcutta.� Asked if Chowdhury opposed the decision, Mukherjee said: �He gave his objective assessment. He said the party is weak (in Panskura).�

The Left is backing CPI�s Gurudas Dasgupta, while Bikram Sarkar, former Howrah MP, is the Trinamul-BJP candidate.

The Congress decision to put up its nominee for the Panskura by-election is likely to widen the split in the state unit. Before the decision, Sonia spoke to senior leaders Pranab Mukherjee, Das Munshi, Chowdhury, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Pawan Bansal.

Chowdhury and several other state leaders are advocating a �grand alliance� against the Left front. Sources said that at the meeting with Sonia, Chowdhury opposed the Congress move not to back the Trinamul nominee.

Kerala ally: A delegation of the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) called on Sonia and sought her assurance that the Congress will not sway from its pro-minorities stand. The IUML team had complained to her that certain Congress leaders in Kerala had a tacit understanding with the BJP and a section of the IUML even wanted to leave the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) and join the Left Front.

Sources said Sonia assured them that the party stood by secularism and that she would discuss their apprehensions with senior leaders.    


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