N Srinivasan's position as BCCI president, so solid all through the spot-fixing crisis and the arrest of his son-in-law on betting charges, appeared to wobble on Wednesday as the senior politicians on the board began speaking out on the issue. The most significant comment came from IPL chairman Rajiv Shukla after meeting with BCCI vice-president and disciplinary committee member Arun Jaitley: Srinivasan, they had decided, must "stay away" from the inquiry commission set up by the BCCI to look into the fixing and betting issues.
Responding shortly after, Srinivasan said Shukla's statement reiterated his own stand. "He has very clearly clarified that what he says is that the commission has been appointed and I should dissociate myself from the procedure as stated. He has reiterated what I stated in the press conference in Kolkata...that I have nothing to do with the committee."
Shukla did not clarify what he meant by "stay away," but he did say they did not specifically mean that Srinivasan must stand down from his position. "He is an elected president and he says he has done nothing. That is his view," Shukla said. "We would want that he stay away during the investigation procedure and have suggested to him that he do so. The image of the BCCI and of Indian cricket has been very badly affected by these events."
Shukla's statement, which he repeated almost verbatim a couple of hours later, also said that the decisions of the three-man commission must be directly implemented, and not presented before the general body of the BCCI. It was important the investigation was "independent and that the persons responsible, no matter how they big they may be, are severely punished."
The inquiry commission had originally meant to comprise two BCCI officials and an independent member, but Shukla said it had been altered to assert its independence by including two judges and a single member from the board, in this case its secretary Sanjay Jagdale.
The commission's remit was widened to look into India Cements, the owners of Chennai Super Kings, apart from Gurunath Meiyappan, the Super Kings official arrested on charges of betting, and Jaipur IPL Pvt Ltd, the owners of Rajasthan Royals, three of whose players - Sreesanth, Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan - were arrested on allegations of spot-fixing.
The growing political pressure was also signalled by India's sports ministry, which issued a statement calling for Srinivasan's resignation. "The Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports has observed with considerable disquiet, the reports about match & spot fixing in cricket," the statement read. "BCCI is inquiring into allegations of match and spot fixing. As there is a conflict of interest in this inquiry, therefore BCCI President should tender his resignation on moral grounds, pending the outcome of the inquiry."
Adding to the voices was former BCCI and ICC president Sharad Pawar, also a minister in the federal government, who backed another past president Shashank Manohar's call for all IPL 2013 matches to be investigated by an external agency.
"The entire issue should be referred to the home ministry and it should investigate all IPL matches," Pawar said. "Shashank Manohar's suggestion is correct. There should be a detailed investigation, not just one game, [but] all games should be looked at."
Pawar also said such a crisis "never happened" when he was in charge of the BCCI. He felt it was up to Srinivasan to decide whether he should resign, but when asked if he would have stepped down if he had been in Srinivasan's position, he said, "If I had been there I would not have allowed these type of things."
Pawar was the board president, and Srinivasan the treasurer, when the BCCI had allowed India Cements, controlled by Srinivasan and his family, to bid for an IPL franchise in 2008. In the board's opinion at that time, it did not amount to a conflict of interest but Pawar advised caution in the future.
"In 2008, we had taken legal opinion and we got a considered view that there is no conflict," Pawar said. "In that situation, when we discussed it in the office bearers' meeting, it was cleared. But henceforth, we have to be very careful."