The controversy surrounding the Indian Premier League (IPL) took a new twist last night with further confusion about who was behind the bid for a Pune franchise. Documents now seem to link Sharad Pawar, the former BCCI president, with the bid through a company in which he has a stake, contradicting claims by the politician and his family that they were not involved.
Minutes of a January 31 meeting of the Pune-based City Corporation board reveal that Aniruddha Deshpande, its managing director, had been given permission to make a bid on "behalf" of the company during the auction in March. This calls into question Pawar's earlier stance that Deshpande had made the bid in an individual capacity and the board had given him permission to do so at a meeting on March 17.
Pawar, his wife Pratibha Pawar and his daughter Supriya Sule, a Member of Parliament, own a 16.22 per cent stake in City Corporation. Pawar had said the reason he did not reveal his family's stake in the company was because "there was no necessity felt to do so". Sule had said that at the March 17 meeting it was resolved that the company will have nothing to do with the bid. But the minutes of the January meeting, a copy of which was made available to Cricinfo, state that Deshpande was asked to go ahead with the bid in the company's name.
According to the excerpts from the January minutes, the board "resolved that the company do and hereby authorise Mr Aniruddha Deshpande to represent the company in participating, bidding, winning and operating [an] IPL franchise from Pune in IPL-4 and onwards and to sign any agreement and other documents on behalf of the company in relation to participating in the bidding process of the IPL." In his defence, Deshpande told the Times of India that the January meeting was to "enable" him to exercise his bid in his personal capacity.
Sule, meanwhile, continued to maintain that neither she nor her father had done anything wrong. "We don't know anything about this because Mr Pawar and I don't sit on the company's Board. I don't know why a mountain is being made out of a molehill," she said. Sule insisted that Deshpande was going to find a new set of shareholders if he had won the bid. "When Mr Deshpande submitted the bid to the BCCI, he had given a note that the shareholders may change as there will be a new consortium made if they win the bid and they lost the bid," he said.
The BCCI is clearly unhappy with the situation. Reacting to allegations on Friday by Lalit Modi, the suspended IPL commissioner, that Chirayu Amin, the interim IPL chairman, was also involved in the City Corporation bid, Shashank Manohar, the Indian board president, released a statement, asking why Modi had not informed the board that Deshpande was bidding on his own. "Mr Modi has also made a statement that Mr Aniruddha Deshpande, MD City Corporation Ltd, had informed him that though the bid was submitted on behalf of City Corporation Ltd, it was in fact a personal bid on behalf of himself," Manohar wrote.
"Mr Modi, who claims to be above board in all matters, did not think this very cogent and important piece of information should be shared with governing council members and officials." However, through his vehement attack against Modi, Manohar has also indirectly contradicted Pawar's claim that the bid had not been made in City Corporation's name. It is also understood that since Pawar is not part of any of the IPL franchises, he is clear of any wrongdoing as far as the BCCI are concerned.