Calcutta, Feb. 21: The knives were being sharpened from November 29 itself, when Jagmohan Dalmiya’s reign as the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) supremo ended ' ironically, on home turf.
The first attack, though, was launched this afternoon with No.1 baiter Lalit Kumar Modi (who has a controversial past) tearing into the most prized entry in Dalmiya’s CV: Clean image.
Even before the BCCI made an announcement ' it was restrained, mind you ' after an emergent working committee meeting in New Delhi, vice-president Modi accused Dalmiya of “misappropriating funds” to the tune of “Rs 20 crore”.
Dalmiya, who has headed the International Cricket Council (ICC) as well, reacted furiously to an allegation which must have hurt more than nominee Ranbir Singh Mahendra’s loss to Sharad Pawar last November.
“It’s baseless'. They’ve started a witch-hunt and probably want a reason for disciplinary action. There’s a limit to playing dirty. I’m confident of replying suitably to every charge,” he told The Telegraph.
Dalmiya believes former president Inderjit Singh Bindra, who masterminded his downfall, is “trying to settle scores” for having been suspended from the BCCI not too long ago.
They fell out in 1997, soon after Dalmiya became the ICC chief.
Apparently, Modi and Bindra demanded that Dalmiya furnish his explanation today itself, but Pawar intervened to say he be given the “week or so” that he wanted.
Dalmiya has been issued a “note”.
The allegation revolves around the Pakistan-India-Sri Lanka Committee (Pilcom) accounts of the 1996 World Cup, co-hosted by the Asian giants.
It’s bizarre that such accounts exist even a decade after the mega event, but that’s because 64 tax-related cases are being contested in Indian courts or tribunals.
Dalmiya was Pilcom’s convener-secretary till January 23 when the Pawar regime replaced him with treasurer N. Srinivasan and initiated an “internal audit.”
A top charge is that Dalmiya operated and closed an Indian Overseas Bank account (in Calcutta) after that date. That account met legal expenses.
Also, because of a discrepancy, questions have been raised as to why the Dalmiya-headed Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) gave a cheque for almost Rs 40 lakh to the BCCI when the balance transferred from that Pilcom account was to have been under Rs 18 lakh.
Dalmiya’s contention is that he had to “hand over” the balance to the new convener-secretary. “I couldn’t have transferred the amount to one of my accounts and, so, the CAB came into the picture,” he said.
But why the difference'
“That will be answered once I return to Calcutta and all transactions have been checked afresh. In any case, nobody lost money'. How is it misappropriation'” Dalmiya countered.
Modi and Co. have even raised questions about “around $4 million” which has gone “missing.”
Dalmiya’s reply: “They’re talking of the $3.77 million in a Citibank account in London' With India and Pakistan having reached an agreement with Sri Lanka, that’s to take care of tax liabilities (if any) to be shared by the two countries'.”
He added: “The Reserve Bank of India knows about that account'. Those millions aren’t in my pocket.”
Still, a finger is being pointed at Dalmiya’s relationship with the late Mark Mascarenhas, who headed WorldTel, which handled the 1996 World Cup’s TV production.