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Kolkata Knight Riders' lucrative Kolkata connection

Tuesday, 10 June 2014 - 9:00am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna

The richest 'team' won the IPL T20 cricket tournament. Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) is also the IPL franchise that has generated maximum profits. This franchise represents Kolkata. In a subcontinent that abounds with self-appointed thikadars, KKR has received the thikadari of the brand called Kolkata. Let us not mix up that private brand with the very public urban agglomeration, the capital city of Bengal, Kolkata. Such thikadaris have also been given for brands named Chennai, Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, etc.

KKR won Rs15 crore in prize money. Just after this was announced, an Internet meme went viral claiming that Shah Rukh Khan had donated Rs15 crore for cancer-care in Kolkata and Mumbai. Like most Internet memes, this nugget of benevolence could not be verified. The most verifiable thing that connects the city of Kolkata with the branded franchise Kolkata Knight Riders is the stupendous amount of unpaid taxes that the owners of KKR owe to the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC). KMC's deputy-mayor let out the simple mathematical truth — KKR had not paid Rs1.16 crores in taxes owed from the last three years, as of May 20, 2014. This isn't surprising given that the owners of KKR are running a business. Incidentally, the tax money that KMC collects is used to clean sewers, run schools and hospitals, maintain roads and provide drinking water to thousands in Kolkata who cheered for the knights of the Shah Rukh order. So much for the periodically televised 'love' for Kolkata's people that is declared by the KKR and its owners. If I owed someone more than a crore and that person cheered me instead of pressuring me for payment, I would love him. I would dance for him, wherever, whenever, for free. If he had something to sell, I would promote it for free. There must be 'something different' about any place where I am publicly felicitated when I actually owe huge amount of tax money to it.

With things so alien like a Corinthian helmet being the emblem of a bunch of 'knights' in the land of lethels (lathi-warriors), it isn't surprising that the closest thing to Kolkata that figured in the T20 final was Sakib-al-Hasan. With debates about illegal Bangladeshis doing the rounds in imperial metropolis of Delhi, the legal Bangladeshi in the KKR team in the form of Sakib-al-Hasan was the saving grace for Kolkata and Suba Bangla. In the meantime, the media bombardment ensures cheerleading from metro-based 'Bongs' for 'their' side. The charming thing that is their post-Manmohanics 'Bong'ness — domesticated enough to only do korbo, lorbo in front of their TV sets.

I wonder how this IPL thing is received among cricket-lovers who thrash people for supporting 'foreign' teams. If it is not anti-Kolkata or anti-West Bengal to recruit alien players for a team built by a private entity (KKR), how does supporting or not supporting a team built by another private entity (BCCI's Team India) become some test of loyalty, tricolour and all that? If it's about 'swadeshi', then supporting the team with even more ethno-cultural consonance with oneself is better, I suppose. There should be no problem if some West Bengalis start supporting the Bangladesh team against the BCCI team that has few if any Bengalis. Or say Gurkhas of the Indian Union supporting Nepal in a football match with the Indian Union. What makes one private entity using a nation-state (India) as a brand more 'authentic' in any way than KKR using the name of a city (Kolkata) that is older than the nation-state of India?

The author is a Bengal-based commentator on politics and culture @gargac

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