Sunday, December 08, 2013

With Vasundhara Victory, Is Lalit Modi Back In The Game?

By Jagmaal Rana | Jaipur

RAJASTHAN ELECTIONS  "I paid the price of being close to Vasundhara Raje." - Lalit Modi on March 1, 2009 after he lost in the Rajasthan Cricket Association election. Lalit Modi’s rise in the Board of Control for Cricket in India is the stuff of legend. 

His fall is the stuff of legend too. In both cases, the swiftness with which he rose and fell was extraordinary. He first came to power in the RCA in 2005 – overthrowing the powerful Rungta regime which had ruled Rajasthan cricket for 30 years. But soon after Raje lost Rajasthan in 2009, 
Modi found himself in the wilderness – alone, fighting a losing battle on all fronts. The Congress government in Rajasthan – which took over in 2009 – filed a string of cases against him, the BCCI ostracized him and he left India claiming his life was in danger even as Enforcement Directorate sought to speak to him.

But now with Vasundhara Raje looking set to make a return in Rajasthan, what does it mean for Modi? Will it mean a return to RCA? Will it mean a return to India? Will it mean a return to the BCCI? A report said that ‘Modi twisted arms, broke laws and recreated rules to have his way. 

For people looking for an access to the Vasundhara Raje government, Mr Modi was the single window.’ So powerful was Modi in the Raje era that Kishore Rungta – who had lost to Modi in the RCA elections -- later claimed that even Modi’s rise to power was done with the help of the government. "With the power of Vasundhara Raje's government behind him, a new law, the Rajasthan Sports Act, was created in 2005, which changed the structure of all sports associations and their elections," Rungta had said. 

Till that point, RCA elections included votes of 32 district associations and 66 individual members. And by design, the individual members almost always voted for Rungta. But the new Act made the 66 members defunct and paved the way for Modi to become president of the RCA. Modi also allegedly had control over the government's investment attraction body — Board of Infrastructure Development and Investment (BIDI) – which was also chaired by Raje. 

It was clear – Raje trusted Modi. But it is also clear that he took advantage of that trust to get things done. So clear was link between the two that in the run-up to the state assembly elections in 2008, Ashok Gehlot chose to target Modi in almost every election speech. “BJP ministers, bureaucrats and politicians had to wait outside Modi's hotel room for project clearances right through Raje's five-year term in power in Rajasthan," Gehlot said in a press conference in 2010. 

There are other cases against Modi: showing disrespect to the national flag, embezzlement of funds meant for victims of the Jaipur blasts, misappropriation of funds in the 2007 World Cup and a corruption case, where Modi allegedly acquired heritage havelis on government property after showing them as private property. But now that Raje is back, can she simply wave the magic wand and make all of Modi’s troubles disappear? Or has she lost interest in Modi’s battles? 

Then again – would she want to wait till the 2014 general elections before showing her true hand? Secure your post before showing your weak card. The timinf of Modi’s return – if there is a return – will be crucial. In Rajasthan, a lot of bureaucrats and politicians will be watching with trepidation to see what the next move is. Modi has nothing to lose – that much is clear. But the same can’t be said of the others.

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