Congress speaks in different voices on DDCA

While Maken attacked Jaitley, Azad and Kharge sidestepped the controversy

Updated - March 24, 2016 11:50 am IST

Published - December 23, 2015 11:20 pm IST - New Delhi:

In the last two weeks of Parliament, deep cracks surfaced in the Congress over the Delhi & District Cricket Association (DDCA) controversy with several senior leaders split over whether to stoke up the issue for political mileage or simply brush it aside.

On December 16, a day after Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal accused Finance Minister Arun Jaitley of being involved in the alleged DDCA scam, senior Congress leader Ajay Maken attacked Mr. Jaitley in a detailed press briefing, displaying the documents of a Delhi government investigation. Mr. Maken said in a highly aggressive tone—that the government should “stop theatrics and sack Jaitley.” He also demanded a Joint Parliamentary probe.

Much to Mr. Maken’s dismay, the next day, on December 17, both the leaders of the Opposition, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Mallikarjun Kharge, chose to sidestep the DDCA row and continue raising its troubles with the Governor of Arunachal Pradesh.

On December 18, Mr. Maken raised the matter with party president Sonia Gandhi. Apart from Mr.Kharge and Mr. Azad, other senior leaders Rajiv Shukla, C.P. Joshi, Gaurav Gogoi and Jyotiraditya Scindia were present at the meeting at 10 Janpath. Party sources said Ms. Gandhi expressed her disappointment over the party’s “lack of coordination” in raising the issue. As per the Congress protocol, the press briefing content must be spread around by the party leaders in the coming days. And there is no place like Parliament to do that.

At the meeting, Ms.Gandhi played a master stroke. Aware about how entangled her own party men could be in cricket politics, she asked the MPs to raise their hands if they would like to mobilise public opinion against the alleged scam. On that, all the hands were up.

Though the consensus was broad-based, the party still tweaked its demand a bit, ignoring the call for Joint Parliamentary Probe, and seeking a “court monitored CBI inquiry” instead.

Speaking to The Hindu , senior Congress leader Anand Sharma refused to comment on as to why the party changed its position but vouched for the CBI inquiry.

“I was not present at Mr. Maken's briefing, so I don't want to talk about it,” he said.

When the Congress was in power, cricket was one of the major reasons for intra-arty rifts. In 2011, Mr.Maken introduced Sports Bill, in which one of the clauses sought tenure and age limits of office-bearers of sports federations. Mr.Maken, who was Sports Minister back then, was vehemently criticised by his own party men for introducing such legislation, even though it had a backing of the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the then Finance Minister P. Chidambaram.

Senior Congress leaders C.P. Joshi and Vilasrao Deshmukh and National Conference Patron Farooq Abdullah were among the ardent critics of the Bill. Mr. Jaitley, who’s now caught up in the DDCA row, rejected the Bill as well.

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