The Indian Premier League begins on Saturday, the 23rd of March. This will be 12th edition of the cricketing festival that millions across the country are hooked on to. However, one of the important milestones regarding this year’s IPL doesn’t come from the cricketing world. It comes from the world of national security.
The tournament generally takes place in the months of March, April and May. Therefore every five years, the tournament clashes with the general elections, which also take place in the same period. Considering this is the biggest cricketing festival in India, it requires massive security deployment across the big cities in India. Traditionally, whenever it clashed with a general election, the tournament was moved out of India so that India would not have to provide for its security, and that India’s security agencies could instead focus on the general elections.
This was rather unfortunate, since this is among the most successful cricketing tournaments in the world, a tournament that was conceived by India and that allowed thousands of cricketing fans in India to watch some of the best cricketing talent from across the world, live in action. For the first time this year, the entire tournament will be held in India alongside the general elections. This is a massive milestone for our security agencies, and it demonstrates how far India has come in the last five years on the national security front.
In 2009, the first time this tournament was moved out of India due to the general elections, the then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi had described the shifting out of the IPL due to the general elections as a “national shame”. The Congress Party which was in government then accused the BJP of politicizing the IPL. The real issue though was that India was incapable of having both the General Elections as well as the Indian Premier League simultaneously, since the country was not equipped for it.
Ten years down the line, with the same Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister of India, this so-called politicization that the Congress Party accused him of, seems to have translated into concrete action. The country is now, unlike before, capable of hosting the Indian Premier League at the same time as the General Elections. Clearly, this is not an issue that the BJP simply used to target the Congress Party and its government back in 2009. The government seems to have solved the issues that prevented them from holding both the cricketing festival as well as the festival of democracy simultaneously.
For a serious country that considers itself to be a rising power, the inability to hold a cricketing tournament along with the elections was a sign of how shallow our national security apparatus was. This is exactly what Narendra Modi pointed out in 2009, and it exactly where he has delivered. This isn’t the only area where the country has witnessed a marked shift of mindset when it comes to dealing with issues of national security. Whether it is how Naxalism has been choked, how the number of terrorist attacks have dropped, how Pakistan has been dealt with or even China was handled at Doklam, national security is an area where the government has made serious amends in the last five years and has begun dealing from a position of strength.