Why Dada as BCCI chief is not good news for Didi

Last Updated 17 October 2019, 11:04 IST

It can be argued that the Board of Cricket Control of India, or BCCI, has little to do with Indian politics on the face of it. But politicians like Sharad Pawar and Anurag Thakur have served as its presidents and many a politician has been involved in the sweepstakes to hold top offices in the powerful cricketing body. The BCCI presidentship spells political clout and power like few other positions. It is not surprising, therefore, that the latest episode in the BCCI presidential contests – the unanimous election of former India captain, Sourav Ganguly – has set the political circles abuzz.

The effect of Ganguly’s rise to the BCCI top slot is being felt rather keenly in Bengal, where the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is upbeat while the Trinamool Congress (TMC) is suddenly finding itself in a tight spot. It’s not that Sourav Ganguly has joined the BJP or has even given a broad hint that he could be doing so. But after his unexpected, dramatic rise to the post of BCCI president-elect, the credit of which has accrued to BJP stalwart Amit Shah, the rumour mills have it that Ganguly will join the BJP before the 2021 Assembly election in the state.

Many think it cannot be just a coincidence that Dada’s ‘Team BCCI’ will be dominated by people close to the BJP. Amit Shah’s son Jay Shah will work as the second man in the new BCCI team. He is slated to be the secretary of the BCCI. Union minister and former BCCI chief Anurag Thakur’s brother Arun Dhumal will be the treasurer in Ganguly’s team.

What has fuelled the speculation further is a meeting between Shah and Ganguly that took place in Delhi on October 12, just a day before the BCCI meeting in Mumbai. What transpired between the two is not known. It could even have been passed off as a meeting between two state cricket officials – Shah is still president of the Gujarat Cricket Association (the body which elected Jay Shah to represent it in the BCCI) and Ganguly is the head of the Cricket Association of Bengal – but what happened the next day indicated things were not quite that simple.

When the Board meeting started on Sunday, Brijesh Patel of Karnataka was the favourite for the top job. Ganguly even congratulated Patel and told reporters that Patel was chosen. But late evening, a mysterious call came to Anurag Thakur, forcing him to leave the meeting for a while. When he came back, the situation changed dramatically. Ganguly hit the final sixer in the death overs.

It is well-known that cricket politics in India is no less tough than realpolitik. Despite his immense popularity, Sourav Ganguly had little means to get to the top of the BCCI this time. So, who helped him to clinch the top job? The needle points clearly at Amit Shah. The next relevant question is why he did he support Ganguly? One does not need to be an Einstein to figure out the answer, particularly when it is known how much importance the BJP is attaching to Bengal.

When asked about it, Shah denied any such deal, but with a rider. “If he does (join BJP), it’s good,” the BJP president said. Ganguly too said, quite emphatically, that when he met Shah politics was not on the table. Perhaps. But, some things are never said, only assumed.

The development does not augur well for Bengal’s Didi. Once again, the reasons for this are not difficult to comprehend: ‘Dada’ is an icon in Bengal and also a Bengali icon for the rest of India. That Amit Shah had a key role in elevating him to the top slot of BCCI has political consequences. Mamata Banerjee has accused the BJP of being a ‘Hindi heartland party’ not in sync with Bengal’s culture. The developments at the BCCI have cleared the BJP of the charge.

Amit Shah has won the hearts of the people of Bengal with this single, prudent stroke. It has put the TMC in a Catch 22 situation. They cannot comment against Dada as that would harm them severely and neither can they go overboard with the Bengali hero’s success as that would be like singing the BJP’s praises.

That is not all. If Sourav Ganguly joins the BJP at some later point, or even if he agrees to campaign for some candidates of the Saffron party without formally joining the party, it will be a blow to the TMC. For Ganguly, supporting some candidates without joining the party will not be a new thing. He did so for Baishali Dalmiya, the daughter of Jagmohan Dalmiya (the legendary cricket administrator from Bengal who dislodged Sharad Pawar from the top slot of BCCI), when she was fighting an election as a TMC candidate.

Despite the tall talk indulged in by Mukul Roy and Kailash Vijayvargiya (central observer for Bengal), the BJP has not been able to dent Mamata Banerjee’s fortress any further after the Lok Sabha elections. As things stand, it is now a 50:50 situation, and the BJP is still searching for that one factor that will allow it to surge ahead of the TMC. Ganguly has the potential to be that very factor. That is why the development in the top echelons of the BCCI has brought wide smiles to the BJP in Bengal.

(Diptendra Raychaudhuri is a Kolkata-based journalist and author of books including, A Naxal Story. He is a deputy editor at the Bengali daily, Aajkal)

The views expressed above are the author’s own. They do not necessarily reflect the views of DH.

(Published 16 October 2019, 10:41 IST)

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