As the India-Sri Lanka cricket match on Sunday was played in a half-empty stadium, the Congress blamed the Kerala Sports Minister’s recent controversial comment on the ticket rate for the low turnout, while the CPI(M) contended that he did not say anything wrong.
Congress MP from Thiruvananthapuram Shashi Tharoor, presently in the southern State, was of the view that irrespective of what the Sports Minister V Abdurahiman said, people should not have avoided turning up for the match.
“People not turning up was a loss. It was not a loss for the Minister. He got some headlines. It was a loss to cricket and to those who love the sport,” he said.
Amid criticism from various quarters that ticket rates for the ODI were exorbitant, Abdurahiman had sparked off a major controversy by saying that those who cannot afford it need not go to watch the match.
“What is the need for reducing the tax? The demand is that the country is witnessing the phenomenon of price rise so that the tax should be reduced. Those who are starving need not go to watch the match,” the Minister had said.
Speaking to reporters, Mr Tharoor said the Minister could have avoided saying what he said and the public ought to have not boycotted the match. “I saw some campaigns on social media calling for a boycott of the match. It appears their campaign was effective. I think it was illogical to boycott it. I was fortunate to watch the match, so were those who came here,” the Congress MP said.
Leader of Opposition in the State Assembly V D Satheesan, too, laid the blame at the Minister’s doorstep by saying that Abdurahiman ought not to have questioned the self-esteem of Malayalis with his remark.
Satheesan said the Minister’s “starving” remark has resulted in the match being played before empty galleries. CPI(M) State secretary M V Govindan, however, came to the aid of the minister by saying that Abdurahiman only meant to say that those who are poor may not be able to come and watch the match.
“It was the media who made his statement controversial,” Govindan said.
The Kerala Cricket Association (KCA) said the low turnout was due to the ongoing Sabarimala pilgrimage season, Pongal festival and some CBSE exams scheduled to commence from Monday. Besides these, another reason given by KCA president Jayesh George to a TV channel was that the last cricket match held here was in September 2022 and another being held just a few months later might have contributed to the poor ticket sales.
Thiruvananthapuram Corporation Mayor Arya Rajendran, earlier in the day, said the fall in ticket sales was probably due to the reason that India has already won the series or because it is a ODI which is longer than a 20-20 fixture, so people may not have had a lot of time to spend on the game. She, however, said the increase in entertainment tax on the ticket prices or the Minister’s statement may not be the reason for the drop in sales.
As per law, tax between 24 and 48 per cent is levied, she said. Rajendran also said the tax rate was decided after discussions with the State government and KCA. She was hopeful that more people would turn up by the time the match starts. When the Minister’s statement had created controversy, the government had said the entertainment tax was actually reduced from a higher rate to 12 per cent.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)