Mumbai:IPL Commissioner Lalit Modi's powers are set to be curtailed considerably as the move to clip his wings gained momentum at an informal BCCI meeting in Dharamshala where the Board's top brass discussed the Kochi franchise ownership row.
After Modi's public spat with Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor on the matter turned into a political storm and an income tax nightmare for the IPL, the Board officials held an informal conclave in the picturesque hill-town of Dharamshala.
It assumes importance as it was the first meeting among the BCCI bigwigs after Modi's tweets on the identity of Kochi stakeholders triggered off the furore.
Keeping Modi out of the meeting is being seen as a snub to the high-flying IPL Commissioner. Many of the IPL Governing Council members were unanimous in the view that Modi should be downsized while some of his known detractors in the Board even pressed for his removal as Commissioner.
Significantly Modi, who wields considerable power as the Indian Premier League chairman and commissioner, was kept out of the deliberation where the key members of the Governing Council generally assessed the fallout of the controversy and the Income Tax raids at IPL offices.
"It was an informal meeting where the governing council members discussed the issue. We are trying to get the views of as many members as possible. No decision has been taken yet and we will continue to have meetings," a BCCI source said.
For the record, BCCI spokesman Rajiv Shukla said that there was no meeting that took place.
"There was no meeting, we had just gone to watch the match. A formal meeting of the governing council will be held after the IPL," Shukla told reporters on his arrival from Dharamshala.
The source indicated that Modi's powers as commissioner would be most probably curbed when the IPL governing council meets immediately after the third edition of the event ends on April 25.
Modi's detractors in the BCCI are pressing for his head as they feel he has brought the IPL under media glare for all the wrong reasons but as of now, it appears that he would continue in the post till his term ends in 2012.
"As of now it seems he will remain in the post but definitely his powers would be curbed and he will not be allowed to take decisions unilaterally," the source said.
Although it was not a scheduled meeting, the members who had gathered in Dharamshala for the inauguration of an academy and to watch the Deccan Chargers vs Kings XI Punjab match took the opportunity to take stock of the current developments and prepare the groundwork for the governing council meeting.
The furore started when Modi revealed the identities of the stakeholders of the Kochi team. The shareholders in the team include a Dubai-based businesswoman Sunanda Pushkar, who is a close friend of Tharoor.
Modi alleged that Tharoor tried to pressurise him into not revealing the stakeholders' identity, especially Sunanda. Tharoor denied the allegations and accused Modi of trying to scuttle Kochi's bid.
An ugly war of words ensued and while Tharoor is now under intense pressure to resign, Modi has also landed in a soup as details have also emerged of his relatives' stakes in Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab.
The issue is also finding resonance in the BCCI's power corridors where officials are towing the line of their respective parties -- BJP and Congress.
That Modi is losing support among the council members is apparent with the comments that have come from a couple of them in the last few days.
Union Minister for New and Renewable Energy Farooq Abdullah went on record in saying that he was not in favour of removing Modi but certainly wanted his powers to be curbed.
Finance and Media Committee chairman and Congress MP Rajiv Shukla had only yesterday stated that there was no reason to disbelieve Tharoor, a statement which can be interpreted as going against Modi.
Although there appears to be a divide on how far to go on downsizing Modi, much would depend on President Shashank Manohar.
Manohar is seen as a low-profile and image-conscious administrator and the recent developments and the strongly-worded letter he wrote to Modi following his twitter disclosures indicates his mood.
A close aide of Manohar acknowledged that the BCCI President is extremely upset with all the negative publicity that the controversy has attracted and is keen to "systematically downsize Modi."
"Knowing him, he will certainly downsize Modi but may not take the drastic step to remove him as IPL commissioner right now as it could lead to more problems," Manohar's confidante said.
As part of the downsizing exercise, Modi would be asked to take the Governing Council into confidence before making any important statement.
What transpired in Dharamshala is not being disclosed by the members but it is apparent that the ground is being prepared for some hard-hitting decisions.
With the IPL brand image nosediving following the income tax raids at the BCCI headquarters and several franchisees in the last two days, some members have also discussed how to make the entire bidding process more transparent.
Modi would also be asked to come clean on whether he had any financial interest in the teams where his relatives are stakeholders.
Modi, on his part, is unfazed by the developments and is confident that he would continue to remain as IPL Commissioner.
"The constitution provides me to be Chairman right now. We will deal with it. This is an internal matter of BCCI and IPL," he said.
Modi is said to have the backing of former BCCI President Shard Pawar and Punjab Cricket Association President IS Bindra in the board.
While Pawar has defended him in an interview to a TV channel, Bindra has kept silent on the entire episode and it is not clear whether he will back him when the issue comes up for discussion.
Modi is scheduled to leave for Dubai for the ICC Executive Board meeting on April 19 and 20 where Pawar, currently the ICC's vice-President, will also be in attendance.
Modi will attend the meeting as an alternate for Manohar, who has decided to skip it.
The BCCI's working committee is scheduled to meet on April 24 where the IPL Kochi issue and the public spat between Modi and Tharoor is expected to be discussed in detail.
The meeting assumes importance as it will give the BCCI an idea of the views of the working committee members before the IPL Governing Council meeting.