Last week, on 12 November 2015, the Delhi government set up a three-member committee to look into alleged instances of corruption and financial mismanagement within the Delhi District Cricket Association (DDCA). This committee was established after former cricketers Bishan Singh Bedi and Kirti Azad approached Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, and requested for government intervention in the matter. Yesterday, the committee recommended that the Board of Control for Cricket in India suspend the DDCA immediately. In this excerpt from Talk of the Town, his May 2015 profile of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Praveen Donthi examines Jaitley’s tenure as the president of the DDCA, a post he held for 13 years.
In January, the former cricketer Bishan Singh Bedi and others wrote a complaint to Narendra Modi about his finance minister. Jaitley had “misused his position as Leader of Opposition to prevail upon various ministries to spare DDCA of punitive action,” they wrote, referring to the Delhi and District Cricket Association. “Mr Jaitley is now heading two important ministries (finance and corporate affairs) which are supposed to take action against DDCA for infraction of various rules and norms of the companies act, as indeed criminal law.”
As the journalist James Astill wrote in his 2013 book The Great Tamasha: Cricket, Corruption and the Turbulent Rise of Modern India, “No Indian cricket administration is so notorious for nepotism and misrule” as the association that governs Delhi cricket, “also known as the Delhi Daddies Cricket Association, or the Delhi District Crooks Association.” Jaitley became the DDCA’s president in December 1999, less than two years after he became a member of the association and a few months after he became a union minister. He held the post for 13 years.
Ashok Malik, the columnist and Jaitley’s friend, told me Jaitley was driven by “his love for cricket,” and the “social cachet.” As Astill observed, “There is no surer way to be seen by millions of Indians than at a televised cricket match.” To be seen “ruling over the proceedings,” he said, “is especially useful for politicians, such as Jaitley … who are not directly elected to parliament … In such cases, prominence in Indian cricket is almost an alternative to electoral prowess.”
The DDCA is a company that follows an opaque electoral system, which allows proxy voting on behalf of its members, many of whom are small-time businessmen who are never present. In February 2000, Outlook reported that this voting could be easily manipulated, and claimed to have “two proxy forms signed by the same member—one of which is obviously a fake signature but is attested by the court—used during Jaitley’s election” as president. However, the association’s two rival factions, led by CK Khanna (known as “proxy king”) and SP Bansal, both supported Jaitley over the years.