The question is about favourite roads to drive in the UK. The answer reveals Lalit Modi's quiet desperation over his exile. "Considering I haven't travelled outside UK for 3 years, 10 months, 19 days. So making most use of the country roads..," the founder of the Indian Premier League (IPL) tells ET. Only a man tired of waiting counts days. Unfortunately for Modi, he may have to wait longer till he can return to India. He is among those Indian cricket board (BCCI) officials under investigation by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for foreign exchange violations.
His Indian passport has been revoked. But over the last few months, Modi has had a few reasons to smile. He has for all practical purposes won the Rajasthan Cricket Association elections (the Supreme Court has to formally announce the verdict). Two, the Bombay High Court has set aside the opinion formed by the ED to hold adjudication proceedings against Modi. Three, N Srinivasan, Modi's bitter rival, is no longer the cricket board president. In an interview with ET, Modi speaks about the charges against him and recent developments in Indian cricket.
In an earlier interaction you called the BCCI a "bunch of silly yes men." Has your view of the BCCI changed now that the Supreme Court's directive for N Srinivasan to step aside has been acted upon?
Nobody in the Board decided they wanted to be a change catalyst. The Court order is what has ensured some change. Next, Sunil Gavaskar and Shivlal Yadav(the Board's interim presidents) need to send a capable person to the ICC to ensure N Srinivasan's stamp on Indian cricket is removed once and for all. (Srinivasan is scheduled to take over as the ICC Board chairman in June).
Your win in the RCA elections has not been formally declared yet. Are you losing patience?
The RCA elections were held in December and have already been postponed multiple times. Thus, the delay is disappointing, but I guess I have to wait.
A few months ago you said you did not want to return to India because of a threat to your life. How did you then decide contest the RCA elections?
I would like to set the record straight, there is a very credible security threat to me and my family (in India). (This is) A fact that is well-documented by the Mumbai Police. As for the RCA elections and my possible return to India, when I saw the state of affairs at the RCA, Jaipur, I had little option but to contest. The world class infrastructure that we had created lay in shambles. To help salvage the situation, I decided to contest.
The ED has nine cases registered against you for foreign exchange violations. Also, your passport has been revoked. If you travel to India, you are liable to get arrested. Isn't this, and not security, the real reason why you are living in the UK?
The Enforcement Directorate is investigating various FEMA (Foreign Exchange Management Act) violations by the BCCI. For your information, I did not have any cheque signing authority in the BCCI. All foreign exchange compliances in the BCCI had to be done by the Hon. Secretary and Treasurer.
Incidentally, the then Secretary was Mr. N Srinivasan. He was handling all FEMA matters. I have been issued notices only for being the IPL Commissioner and Chairman. Furthermore, under FEMA, there is no power to arrest anyone. So the question of not coming to India fearing arrest does not arise.
In hindsight, will you do things differently? Was there truth to the charges of your arrogance and conflicts of interest? You asked former Indian cricketer Narendra Hirwani to leave an enclosure during an IPL game. Your brother-in-law Suresh Chellaram had a stake in the Rajasthan Royals...
It is funny that I am asked this question often. My simple answer to this is that I do not regret anything. I would not do a single thing differently. All I will say is that at times my pursuit of excellence has been misconstrued as arrogance. But that was never my intention. In a quest for excellence I might have ruffled some people who were accustomed to working in a particular manner.
What is the status of your passport? Are you planning to visit India anytime soon?
The case pertaining to my passport which was revoked due to some extraneous reasons is still pending in the Delhi High Court, wherein we have challenged the said revocation. As for coming home, I would love to. But the powers that be need to guarantee the safety and protection of my family and the minute that happens you will see me back in India. It's home and I really do miss India.