3 January 2017
The price of defiance
The Board of Control for Cricket in India has only itself to blame for its present predicament. Its president and secretary have been removed for defying the Supreme Court’s order to accept reforms suggested by a court-appointed committee. And its president, Anurag Thakur, now faces legal action for contempt of court as well as prosecution for perjury. None of this would have happened had the BCCI shown some sense of responsibility and a vision for the future, and recognised the fact that the highest court was only seeking to reform the manner in which cricket is administered in the country. In the court’s view, the appointment of the Justice R.M. Lodha Committee and adoption of its recommendations were part of a project to bring transparency and accountability to the BCCI. While the court expected cooperation and compliance, the BCCI responded with obstructionist tactics and defiance. It was therefore inevitable that the court would seek to send out a message that it will not brook any wilful defiance. Despite the court making the Lodha panel reforms binding on the BCCI through its July 18 verdict, the BCCI appeared to defy it. It cited as one reason difficulties in getting its affiliated State units to accept the reforms, but at the same time made at its Annual General Meeting in September some decisions that were not in tune with the panel’s recommendations. The price of such defiance is clear: the Supreme Court is now going to appoint a committee of administrators to supervise the board’s affairs.
Mr. Thakur’s position is especially unfortunate. As a young sports administrator, he was presented with a great opportunity to lead cricket administration into a new era in which Indian cricket’s on-field achievements would be matched by the Board’s transparent and accountable functioning. If only he and other affiliated units had accepted the reforms, influential individuals who had held sway for decades would have been replaced by fresh talent, and the seemingly unending tenure of some would have been cut short. However, by defying the court in the name of protecting the sport’s autonomy, Mr. Thakur has courted a double blow: the loss of power and authority as well as imminent punishment. His equivocation on whether he invited the International Cricket Council to say there is governmental interference in the BCCI’s affairs has led to the court hardening its stance against him. It is not clear what course of action, if any, would now mollify the Supreme Court and help them escape its wrath. A bitter lesson has indeed been taught, but it is uncertain if it has been learnt.
New Year’s-eve tragedy in Turkey
The New Year’s-eve attack on an Istanbul nightclub that killed at least 39 people, mostly foreigners including two Indians, is yet another reminder of the rapidly deteriorating security situation in Turkey. It comes days after the Russian ambassador to Turkey, Andrey Karlov, was shot dead in Ankara by a lone gunman. In 2016, there were dozens of violent incidents, both by the Islamic State and Kurdish rebels, which have raised questions about the government’s ability to provide even basic public security. The attacks have also badly hit the tourism economy, which makes a sizeable contribution to Turkey’s GDP. The Istanbul attacker, who the IS has called “a heroic soldier of the Caliphate”, has followed a similar pattern. He chose an upmarket nightclub in the western part of Istanbul where foreign tourists had gathered to welcome the New Year. But why is Turkey being repeatedly targeted? Or, how has the country, till a few years ago politically stable with a booming economy, descended into instability and chaos? In part, it is a blowback for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Syria policy, which turned out to be a monumental failure. Like many of his Western allies, Mr. Erdogan also initially thought that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was about to fall, and offered help to the anti-regime rebels. Ankara also inadvertently helped the rise of the IS by allowing jihadists to cross into Syria via the Turkish border. By the time the government realised its folly and started attacking the IS, the group had grown into a real terror machine.
Mr. Erdogan’s decision to relaunch the war with Kurdish rebels was also linked to his policy debacle in Syria. When the rebels started building an autonomous Kurdistan in Syria in the wake of the government’s withdrawal from the border region and emerged as battlefield allies of the U.S. against the IS, Mr. Erdogan saw it as a long-term challenge to Turkey, given the long history of fighting between the Turkish state and the Kurdish militants. He abandoned a ceasefire with the Kurdistan Workers Party, kicking off a new phase of the civil war. Mr. Erdogan is now in a tight spot. The country faces constant threats from the IS, a group that it once ignored. The civil war with Kurdish rebels, which Mr. Erdogan might have hoped would curtail the nationalist ambitions of the Kurdish minority, is growing out of control. Besides, Mr. Erdogan’s authoritarian tendencies and the crackdown on dissent and opposition parties are deeply polarising the country. It is this fragility of the security architecture in Turkey that is frequently being exposed by the attackers.