The power struggle in the BCCI has intensified with the committee of administrators (CoA) joining forces with the chief executive officer Rahul Johri and chief financial officer Santosh Rangnekar in challenging the conduct of treasurer Anirudh Chaudhry.
In November, Rangnekar told the Supreme Court that Chaudhry had issued veiled threats against him on three separate occasions. Chaudhry responded with shock and surprise at the allegation and promptly denied any wrongdoing. He also submitted an affidavit to that effect, having been being asked by the court to do so, on December 13.
The court was scheduled to hear the matter on Monday, but deferred the case to February 23. Meanwhile, the CoA submitted its sixth status report to the court on January 25. Johri had filed an affidavit of his own on the same day and the contents of both these documents could lead to Chaudhry facing some tough questions at the next hearing.
In a damning appraisal of his work, the CoA wrote that Chaudhry’s conduct had become “seriously objectionable” and they have “no reason to disbelieve the allegations levelled” against him by Rangnekar. The report further stated that Chaudhry “appears determined to use his position to undermine” the authority and functioning of the CoA, which took charge on January 30 last year. The committee felt they were “constrained” to report on Chaudhry to the court once he began “inundating” Johri and Rangnekar with e-mails intended to put pressure on them.
Johri told the court that Chaudhry had accused him of taking “erroneous” decisions during the first three weeks of January last year, the period when he acted as head of the BCCI before the CoA took charge. On January 2, the court had sacked the board president Anurag Thakur and secretary Ajay Shirke and disqualified all existing office bearers pending their approval of the Lodha Committee reforms.
Johri cited an example of Chaudhry’s pressure tactics in his affidavit. Last November Chaudhry sent him an e-mail saying he had violated the BCCI’s rules, and his own contract, by trimming the national selection panels (senior and junior) from five to three members. Johri explained that he took the decision based on “directions” from the Lodha Committee but Chaudhry argued that a court order on January 2 and 3 last year had limited the committee’s powers and as such their instructions were not “binding”.
Johri insisted he made the call after consulting both the BCCI’s senior management and their lawyer. He further added that the Lodha committee told him that the court impasse should not hinder “cricketing activity”. But Chaudhry would not accept that the CEO had acted in “good faith”.
Chaudhry highlighted another “wrongdoing” on the part of both Johri and Rangnekar when they accessed funds from a BCCI bank account at a Union Bank of India in Mumbai in January 2017. But both men argued they were within their right to do so. The court had sacked the board’s office bearers and there was a danger of cricket coming to a standstill if various vendors, suppliers, hotels, and state associations were not paid. Under such an emergency, as per a resolution of the BCCI’s financial committee in 2016, the Union Bank account could be operated by two out of three officials – the CEO (Johri), CFO (Rangnekar) and the board’s manager of game development and administration (Ratnakar Shetty).
It was at this juncture the CoA decided to step in. According to Johri, they told Chaudhry that his conduct “is designed to intimidate the professional management of the BCCI and created obstacles in its functioning.” Furthermore, the CoA, in the status report, told the court that Johri had only acted in the “best interests” of the BCCI and should have been “commended rather than vilified”.
The BCCI’s three existing office bearers have been asking the court to take another look at the Lodha reforms, one of which pertains to the demarcation of duties between administrators and management. Supported by many of the state associations, the office bearers prefer control of the board stays in own hands.
The CoA, though, is clearly against that. In an email to Chaudhry on November 22, they said that “vested interests” within the BCCI were trying to create a “parallel” administration, one that wants to stick with the “flawed” existing constitution while opposing the reform process undertaken by the committee. “It is obvious which administration within the BCCI you form part of and support.
“The thrust of your grievances stems from your preference” for the existing BCCI constitution, which was “flawed” and was being replaced by the reforms recommended by the Lodha Committee, approved by the court and being exercised by the professional management under the panel’s supervision.
“It is for this reason that you have been inundating the CEO and CFO with long and verbose emails designed to intimidate them rather than pride any constructive suggestions. Some of the issues raised by you do not even pertain to your duties as Treasurer of the BCCI and it appears that you are insistent on involving yourself with mattes that are outside the scope your duties.”