New Delhi:Within twelve hours of Shashi Tharoor being forced to resign, came the confirmation - Lalit Modi would be next.
Sources tell NDTV that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has decided that Modi will have to step down as Commissioner and Chairman of the Indian Premier League (IPL). In a decision that will no doubt rub salt into Modi's wounds, it's his arch-rival and current BCCI chief, Shashank Manohar, who is likely to head the IPL, which functions as a sub-committee of the BCCI.
Meanwhile, the polemics exchanged by Tharoor and Modi have led to a government decision to body-scan the IPL in its entirety, with special focus on who exactly bankrolls the different teams, and how.
In Parliament, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee announced that the crores poured into the billion-dollar league are being investigated, one cricket team at a time.
"The concerned department has already started investigation process (into the IPL episode). All aspects including sources of funding and routes through which the funds arrived would be looked into. Appropriate action as per law would be taken. No guilty or wrong-doer will be spared," Mukherjee said on Monday, after the Opposition said the IPL was a mess of "gambling and betting."
While Modi's wounds are self-inflicted, the Congress will throw its entire weight behind ripping the bandage off. Sources say that the Congress is keen to highlight that Tharoor, who was made to quit as minister of state for internal affairs on Sunday night, was not the only one who could be faulted for impropriety. In Modi's case, the charges will be far stronger.
A week ago, Modi unleashed upon the country, in a frenzy of tweets, the allegations that Tharoor lobbied for a consortium to win the Kochi IPL franchise because his girlfriend, Sunanda Pushkar, would be rewarded with equity worth 70 crores. The minister insisted he had done nothing wrong, telling NDTV in an exclusive interview that he would not resign.
The Opposition pounced upon Tharoor for missing his office, and for allegedly using Puskhar as a front.
But Modi had gone a couple of tweets too far. His revelations led to demands, from different quarters, that the government clean up what's been dubbed the Indian Paisa League. Modi may have been aiming for Tharoor when he burst open the cupboard of IPL skeletons; but many of those bare-bone secrets have been placed there by rich and powerful players, including, allegedly Modi.
Despite demurrals that he has nothing to hide, Modi's friends and family are co-owners of three different IPL teams, and the new government-ordered inquiries will ascertain whether these are fronts for Modi. Sources say 4500 of his transactions are being checked out by tax officials.
What has the BCCI furious, many say, is that Modi has landed the entire company, of sorts, in a gigantic mess. There are three different agencies - the Income Tax Department and the Enforcement Directorate investigating the source of funds for IPL team-owners. Ownership structure, tax returns, violations of foreign exchange or foreign investment rules will be catalogued. And where listed companies have bought into the IPL, the investigating officials will check whether necessary shareholder approvals have been taken.
The IPL has been asked, to submit by Friday, documents that support the different bids made for the current eight franchises, as well as the two new ones for Kochi and Pune, auctioned last month. Details of the payments for different players have also been sought.
The BCCI's own financial history will be calibrated carefully, and this may irk Modi's colleagues more than anything else. Its tax records with regard to the IPL have to be submitted.
The Congress has been left embarrassed by Tharoor's role. As it body-scans the IPL, it runs the risk of crossing paths with a close ally, Union Minister Sharad Pawar, who has been a staunch supporter of Modi's.
What happens next to Modi will be determined at a meeting later this month of the IPL's governing council. That will be followed, in early May, followed by a meeting of the BCCI Working Committee, where Modi's innings is likely to be ended.
Within the IPL's governing council, Modi's three biggest detractors are IPL vice-president Niranjan Shah, BCCI chief Shashank Manohar and N Srinivasan, BCCI secretary.
Those still rooting for Modi are former cricketers Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, Sunil Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri.
Taking the middle path, for now, are Rajiv Shukla, senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley and National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah.