One other son rises, in Delhi daredevilry

Rohit Mahajan

IT’s the season of nepotism-bashing, but clearly, there’s something irresistible about favouring your own progeny, with roots probably in genes. In the animal world, animals go to extraordinary lengths to save their progeny from predators, even dying in the process; the females of some species kill the young of their rivals, in all probability to provide better opportunities of survival to their own offspring. The story about pelicans feeding their offspring with their own flesh was believed to be true for centuries before being busted; this myth could well be transposed to human beings, in metaphor if not in fact.

Human beings don’t kill the kids of others, as a rule, but they do often kill the opportunities of others to advance their own offspring.

Years ago, a young Delhi cricketer related an anecdote about Bishan Singh Bedi, former India captain. In junior cricket, at one stage this young cricketer — let’s call him AB — was in competition with Bedi’s son, Angad, for a place in the Delhi squad. AB thought he had no chance, for wouldn’t Bedi ensure that his son got selected in the squad? “But Bedi sir did something surprising. He closely observed me playing and decided I was better than his son and that I deserved to be in the squad ahead of his son,” said AB. Bedi’s response was: “How could I destroy a young cricketer’s career?”

Bedi’s action was an anomaly. Powerful people, through influence or bribery, make sure their kids get the benefit of the privilege they enjoy. For instance, you often find sons of influential people — including officials of a cricket association — in cricket teams, often at the cost of more deserving players. The stories that emerge from Delhi are especially sordid, telling of methodical destruction of young cricketers’ spirit and careers. But being born in privilege can’t get the beneficiaries of nepotism wickets and runs, though they sometimes manage to get the ‘First-Class cricketer’ tag with their names.

Nepotism is widespread in governance of sport, even in unglamorous sports — the Punjab Handball Association is controlled by a powerful political family, for instance. In cricket, it’s everywhere you cast your eye — Tamil Nadu, Himachal Pradesh, West Bengal, Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Baroda…

The late Arun Jaitley’s son Rohan is set to become the president of the Delhi association (DDCA) as he seems to have emerged as the consensus candidate. Arun Jaitley himself had been the DDCA president for a long time, despite a full schedule as a politician and BJP ideologue. It’s moot how much time he was able to devote to DDCA, which has always been the prime example of misgovernance and venality in cricket’s administration.

On the orders of the Delhi High Court, an audit of DDCA’s finances was done three years ago, and it found several cases of financial and procedural malfeasance — this included suspected cases of conflict of interest, embezzlement, ‘fictitious payment’, unauthorised loans, and more.

Also in 2017, another audit, by Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, found financial irregularities in most state associations in the country. Early this year, the funding of DDCA was stopped by the Indian cricket board because of lack of proper documentation about money outflow. It’s possible that the DDCA members want a man with a famous surname to head the association to ensure that the funding resumes.

Rohan Jaitley accepts that the financial aspect of DDCA “needs to be cleansed”. He says he is the man to do it, and that he would do it by putting all financial transactions of DDCA in public domain.

Time will tell whether Rohan Jaitley would actually do it — but there’s no denying that he would become DDCA president, at only 31 years old, due to an attribute all politicians and democrats criticise.

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