Indian Cricket Chiefs to Meet Next Week Over Modi's Role in IPL Scandal

India’s cricket chiefs will meet next week to consider action over a franchise scandal that has forced the resignation of a minister, as the government probes the funding of the game’s most lucrative competition.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India will take a “collective, unanimous decision and give future direction to Indian cricket,” Sharad Pawar, former chief of the board and federal agriculture minister, told reports in New Delhi today.

The Indian Premier League, which features a three-hour version of the game and was initiated by the BCCI, has been engulfed by controversy for 10 days after its commissioner Lalit Modi alleged that Shashi Tharoor, a junior minister at the foreign ministry, had used his influence in the award of a team franchise to his benefit.

Tharoor, 54, resigned after dismissing claims he benefitted from free shares given to a friend by Rendezvous Sports World Ltd., which heads the group that won bidding for an IPL team in Kerala state with a $333 million offer.

The BCCI will take a view on whether Modi should continue to run the league at a meeting on April 26, Pawar said today after meeting BCCI chief Shashank Manohar.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee told lawmakers the government won’t spare anyone in its probe of the Indian Premier League. An investigation into the IPL by “the concerned department” has already begun, Mukherjee said in Parliament yesterday. “All aspects of the IPL, including its source of funding, from where the funds were routed, how they have been invested” are being looked into “and the appropriate action” will be taken, he said.

‘Embarrassment’

Modi welcomed any probe and said he will cooperate with investigators on his Twitter Inc. page.

“I will present all the facts and all the allegations,” in the meeting, he told reporters in Mumbai today.

Mukherjee’s response came as some opposition members in Parliament demanded action against the league. In a statement to Parliament today Tharoor said he had done nothing improper.

“In view of the ongoing political controversy, I have no desire to be an embarrassment to the government and believe that my departure at this stage will allow the prime minister and his cabinet colleagues to focus on the great challenges facing our nation,” he said.

The eight teams playing in this season’s IPL tournament include owners such as Mukesh Ambani, the world’s fourth-richest man and chairman of Reliance Industries Ltd.; billionaire Vijay Mallya, chairman of UB Group; and movie star Shah Rukh Khan.

Tax Probe

The league’s appreciation outpaced last year’s 81 percent gain in India’s benchmark Sensitive Index, the most in 18 years.

The IPL has more than doubled its brand value to $4.13 billion from $2.01 billion in 2009, according to Brand Finance Plc. U.K. soccer team Manchester United was valued at $1.87 billion in April 2009, while American football franchise the Dallas Cowboys was worth $1.65 billion, according to Forbes magazine’s ranking of the world’s most valuable sports teams.

The Income Tax department sent a notice to the BCCI with questions on the owners of IPL teams, their balance sheets, income earned during the tournament and money paid to players, the Business Standard reported today, citing a finance ministry official it didn’t name.

The decision by Tharoor, a former UN undersecretary general, to step down ended a year in office punctuated by embarrassments to the ruling Congress party including a five-star hotel stay during the government’s austerity drive and controversial tweets on his Twitter account.

Political Outsider

Tharoor, who has lived overseas for most of his life, was elected to Parliament for the first time last year and appointed to a senior position in India’s foreign ministry.

In September, he vacated a luxury hotel after a senior minister advised him to stay in a government-allotted house as the coalition grappled with ways to cut expenditure. Tharoor said he paid his own bill as his official house was prepared.

Tharoor was criticized by party colleagues after posting a Twitter message saying he would be flying “cattle class out of solidarity with all our holy cows,” as Congress cut back on official expenses.

The cow is considered sacred by Hindus.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bibhudatta Pradhan in New Delhi at bpradhan@bloomberg.net

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