Did you by any chance see all the babus from Mantralaya at the Wankhede Stadium this Thursday for the big game between India and West Indies? The Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) has given away 250 free passes for the ICC T20 World Cup Semi Finals to Maharashtra Chief Secretary Swadheen Kshatriya.
At this point, if you are thinking of buying tickets for the big game, you can forget it. All the tickets have been sold out.
Firstpost has a copy of the letter, which clearly mentions that 250 free passes of the match were sent to Maharashtra Chief Secretary Swadheen Kshatriya.
When contacted by Firstpost, Kshatriya denied receiving any such letter and 250 free passes for the match. "The story is false," he told Firstpost over the phone. When Firstpost Bureau Chief Sanjay Sawant showed him the copy of the letter, Kshatriya quickly denied the allegations and said that the letter and the free passes for the match were for Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.
After Firstpost reported on the distribution of the passes, Congress MLA Nitesh Rane raised the issue in the Maharashtra Assembly on Thursday. In response, Maharashtra assembly speaker Haribhau Bagade has said that he will investigate into the matter and make a statement in the House.
Reacting to the controversy, MCA vice-president Ashish Shelar said, "There is nothing wrong with what has happened in this case. Pursuant to a contract between the sports department and the MCA, passes are supposed to be sent to the sports department. However, earlier, it used to be sent to the chief secretary's office. What has happened now is the correct practice."
Wankhede has a total of 33,000 seats but only 4,000 seats have been made available for the public. Here's the break-up of the seats allocated for the 31 March semi-final.
Former office-bearer of the MCA and general manager game development in BCCI, Prof Ratnakar Shetty said that its not illegal for the state chief secretary to receive free match passes. In fact, Shetty added that according to an agreement between the state government and the MCA, every international match played at Wankhede, MCA will give 250 free passes of Garware stand to the state government.
Elaborating his point further, Shetty added that in 1974, Maharashtra government had donated Rs 20 lakh to build the stadium. For similar reasons, the five Gymkhana clubs in Mumbai — Hindu, Islamic, Parsee, Catholic and Bombay Gymkhana — get 4,200 free passes, Shetty said.
Since MCA did not have enough funds at the time Wankhede was built, the stadium was run on donations. "So every international match we had, we gave away more than 19,000 passes to the donor. Earlier the capacity of Wankhede was 38,000 but after the renewal, the capacity was restricted to 33,000 seats," Shetty said.
The demand for tickets is as usual maddening and is expected only to soar higher. As soon as India sealed their spot at the World T20 semi-finals, the MCA office was bombarded with requests for tickets. People are expected to fly into Mumbai for the match from all around the world. While some have managed to bag tickets, others have arrived only with a flicker of hope.
"We are four and we follow the Indian team everywhere," said a fan at the Wankhede Stadium and added, "But we have only three tickets and we're looking for one more so that none of us miss the match."
While MCA has graciously gifted him the free passes, RTI activist Anil Galgali points to the 'conflict of interest' in the acceptance of this generosity.
In a letter written to Devendra Fadnavis, Galgali stated that joint secretaries of MCA — Dr P V Shetty and Prof. Uday Khanvilkar — have issued 250 free passes to the state government. Galgali expressed his dismay that the top bosses of Maharashtra state government could fall prey to such free ticket bonanza. Galgali had also asked Fadnavis to inquire into the matter.
Meanwhile, every cricket fan around is scrambling for an extra ticket or a free pass for the big match, while Swadhin Kshatriya is sitting on 250 free big ones.
Meanwhile MCA Vice President and Mumbai BJP President Adv Ashish Shelar confirms that MCA has given 250 free passes to the state government. Congress Whip in the Legislative Council Sanjay Dutt has asked for a detailed enquiry into the matter. "I want to know who are the beneficiaries of these free passes? I will be taking up this issue in the Council as well."