It is a dream come true match: Indian POLITICAL League versus Cricket's Indian Premier League - Season 2, which is being played out now.
The ruling UPA Govt. & its political allies in states have realised that, having the IPL matches, the REAL ones I mean, being played out during Prime Time TV is DISASTROUS to themselves, to say the least. You know IPL2 is being scheduled from 10th April, 2009, to 14th May, 2009 - almost exactly the same time when India goes to polls to elect its next Parliament. The Election Commission of India has recently (but after IPL) announced a five phase election schedule starting from 16th April, 2009 to 13th May, 2009, with counting & declaration of results scheduled for 16th May, 2009.
The Security Issue
What has the Govt. got to do with IPL? Nothing except to make available enough Central Security personnel, if the concerned State Govt.s asked for it, to ensure the matches are held without any crowd trouble.
Since security has assumed paramount importance due to the 26/11 Mumbai attacks as also the recent terrorist strikes against Sri Lankan cricketers during the Lahore Test in Pakistan, ensuring highest possible security to teams, match venues & hotels will be of prime importance, in addition to crowd control & safety during match days at match venues. Since Law & Order maintenance is a State Govt.'s responsibility, the respective states are expected to provide security for such matches & teams. If they find shortage of security personnel, they can ask the Central Govt. for additional security forces, which the Centre is obliged to provide for.
The Tweaks in IPL Schedule
But, due to the announcement of 2009 Parliamentary Election Schedule during the same time as IPL2, it is a fact that PROVIDING SECURITY TO ELECTION DUTY IS OF PRIME IMPORTANCE. Having said that, the governments - both centre & states - cannot shirk their responsibility to provide security for other events as long as those events do not directly clash with Elections & people's duty to exercise their franchise.
So, when P. Chidambaram, the present Home Minister of GoI, wanted IPL to re-schedule the event so as not to clash with Elections 2009, IPL authorities have changed their schedule by keeping the opening & closing days in tact but by ensuring no matches are played during at least 48 hours before or after each election day. The 48 hour cool-off time has been given to enable the Govt.'s to move the security forces from/to election areas.
But, in spite of IPL's willingness to tweak its schedule to help the Govt. to provide security, the UPA Govt. and its allies are unwilling to allow IPL2 to go ahead. Though they are not willing to say publicly for fear of youth backlash in the elections, the UPA allies don't want IPL2 to go ahead during election time. The reason is simple: During last year's inagural IPL edition, IPL became such a huge success that nobody could ignore that tournament. Even the legendary sob serials took a TRP beating because of IPL matches during prime time TV. All radio channels were full of IPL & related stuff only during the 6-week period. Why, even the collections of Bollywood, Kollywood & other Woods took a heavy dent during the period. So, politicians, who depend on the arc-lights & media focus for their very survival, and that too when the elections are happening, fear that IPL2 will turn the focus away from them & general public, who are already disgusted with the political class, will use this opportunity to simply ignore the politicos and their pre-election stunts will have no takers. This will directly result in lthem osing the mind-share of the electorate which may lead to them losing the elections itself.
So, it has become a question of survival of the political class, in general and the UPA class, in particular, who are the present ruling junta at the centre and many states like Maharashtra, AP, TN, etc.
The IPL Business
IPL is basically a business first & sport next. The investors of the eight franchise owners have all invested huge sums of money & have to answer their owners - the shareholders of their respective companies. Even missing a year's IPL will throw their business plan awry & they will end up losing crores & crores of money.
So, is there a way to salvage the situation by postponing the IPL? Postponing the IPL is NOT at all an option because the international cricket schedule is already fully packed with no window as big as six weeks to allow IPL to be held later on. So, postponing the IPL, in reality, means skipping the IPL2 altogether. This means all the IPL owners will lose an entire year's income as also other stake-holders like sponsors & TV Rights holders. More than anything, IPL will lose its integrity with the Indian public, who will think that IPL can be run or not run at the whim of politicians & its credibility with international public & players would have been gone.
So, when the Govt. wants IPl to be postponed, they know that it is an impractical option & they really mean that IPL2 should be dropped to help them contest & win their elections in 2009.
The IPL Punch
In this scenario, the development has taken a curious & interesting turn today. BCCI, which runs the IPL, in its emergency working committee meeting held today, decided to go ahead with IPL2 & conduct the tournament on the same dates with the same number of matches (59) but OUTSIDE INDIA. The daily matches will commence at 4 PM & 8 PM (both IST) respectively and viewers in India can watch it live on TV.
This is a momentous decision by BCCI which said that it is being driven to take this decision due to the indifferent attitude of the Govts., particularly Maharashtra & AP - both ruled by Sonia Cong. CMs. BCCI has also apologised to the Indian public for shifting the tournament from India but said it is left with no other option due to the attitude of the Govt. of India.
Now, the Govt. is scurrying for cover, saying BCCI has jumped the gun by taking the decision unilaterally when the talks with Govts. are ongoing. How long the Govt. expects IPL to keep talking & keep on re-scheduling for a decision which is more likely to be a NO to IPL2?
The IPL at England or South Africa
The likely country which is touted to host IPL2 is either England or South Africa. Both these countries are having the advantage of prime time TV viewership from India. Both countries are experts in organising such multi-country & long-running tournaments at short notice. England has the added advantage of being the host of ICC T20 World Cup in June, 2009, just a month after the IPL2 ends. South Africa holds the cost advantage as a cheaper location than England, from the view point of franchise owners.
Though holding IPL - Indian Premier League - away from India doesn't make any sense when Indian viewers can't go to the match & watch it, we can derive satisfaction from the fact that at least there are millions of expatriate populations in both these countries, who will be happy with this announcement as they get an opportunity watch the popular IPL matches live in their country of residence. Moreover, holding the IPL2 in some country will be better than not holding the tournament at all in 2009, for the franchises will lose less by holding it somewhere.
BCCI is expected to finalise the venue country within a couple of days after discussions with both CSA & ECB. CSA will be preferred by IPL franchise owners due to cost factor whereas players will prefer England as it will acclimatise them in the venue where ICC T20 World Cup will be played within a month after the IPL2 ends.
The Final Nail on UPA
As far as Indian public are concerned, though they can't enjoy by watching the IPL2 in the grounds with cheer-leaders, music, et all, at least they can watch the live telecast of the matches during Prime Time. There is one more ace pending with BCCI and that will be the FINAL NAIL IN THE COFFIN OF UPA POLOTICIANS.
IPL is still negotiating with Multiplex theatre chains like PVR, INOX, Fun Cinemas, Fame Adlabs, etc. for LIVE TELECAST OF IPL MATCHES IN THEIR 70 MM SCREENS. Once that is finalised, even Indian fans need not feel dejected for not being able to watch IPL matches in Indian stadiums. With this new arrangement, Indian fans can get to watch their favourite teams, wearing their Team T-Shirts, inside Multiplexes in huge screens & cheer for their respective teams & enjoy the stadium atmosphere.
The Unpopular Political Allies
The UPA Govt. has already given undue publicity to IPL this year by keeping it in the headlines far longer than needed, though actually they tried to kill the tournament. However, the events have taken a different & unexpected turn for them. Now, these UPA politicians will have to answer the Indian youth for denying them a chance to watch IPL in Indian stadiums. The very same youth will be voting in the elections too, who at that time will remember, who has played SPOILSPORT TO IPL BEING CONDUCTED IN INDIA IN 2009.
I hope, the UPA politicians will not lose sight of the irony that the tournament they wanted to scuttle fearing that it will snatch focus away from themselves during Prime Time TV, will definitely be happening, albeit from a foreign country with better TV coverage and this time it is not only Prime Time TV, even Multiplexes will be full of IPL2 matches attracting Indian youth in droves. In this whole episode, the UPA politicians will be the ultimate losers, who will now neither be seen by the TV audience (due to IPL matches live telecast) nor the live audience (due to live telecast of IPL macthes in theatres).
The UPA Govt. which is utterly selfish has to be taught a lesson by the youth of India in the coming elections. At the time of 26/11 Mumbai attacks, the same UPA Govt. went out of its way to accommodate england & provided unprecedented security for two Test matches, which are not considered as popular as T20 matches. But, now, when IPL organisers are even willing to re-schedule the tournament to accomodate the secutity movement during election time, the same UPA Govt. and its allies in states are not willing to help conduct the IPL. The reason will not be lost on the people of this country.
The UPA's mantra seems to be: At any cost, don't allow the media focus to shift away from us during election time. So, don't allow IPL matches to be conducted as it has the potential to take the focus totally away from us & we can't fool the people before elections.
So, those of you, who can see through the game UPA politicians are playing now in the matter of IPL2, please SHOW THE UPA GOVT. THE DOOR & throw them out.
A Govt. which is not capable of providing security to citizens to prevent terorist attacks or when people want to watch their most popular sport in their own cities, is UNFIT TO BE GIVEN MANDATE TO GOVERN.