Differences between Rajat Sharma and his key supporters had begun from the very day he was elected president of the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA), on July 2, 2018. And it pertained to an innocuous tea-and-snacks bill that came up following unbridled celebrations of the clean sweep. Many of his supporters at ‘The Pavilion’ restaurant inside the Feroze Shah Kotla Stadium savoured the clean sweep while Sharma sat in the president’s room with some other supporters barely a few feet away.
At the end of the celebrations, when the newly elected secretary Vinod Tihara wanted Sharma to sign the bill for payment, the president reportedly declined to pay and instead told the waiter to present it to the people who availed tea and snacks. The secretary also didn't pay. The bill got stuck, and that well and truly laid the foundation of the differences between the president and the secretary, who had played a crucial role in the 12-0 verdict for the Rajat Sharma Group.
A majority of Delhi And District Cricket Association Apex Council members signs to remove DDCA CEO Ravikant Chopra.
The differences between Sharma and Tihara continued to grow, till they reached a point of no return, culminating in the Apex Council first suspending Tihara and on Saturday Sharma quitting in a huff. The Sharma-headed DDCA Apex Council actually suspended Tihara a couple of times for various reasons, interspersed by hunger strikes by the secretary’s supporters. A temporary truce was reached, before Sharma resigned at 10.30 am on November 16. His three-year tenure lasted all of 473 days; in other words, less than half the period he was elected for.
Sharma informed the DDCA members about his resignation in a letter he sent on Saturday. “I am sticking by it [resignation]. Why should I have second thoughts about it? I have thought about it very clearly, written, and given it. So, no second thoughts,” Sharma told Outlook when asked if there was a chance of a re-think.
So, what happens to all the promises he had made to Delhi, like the opening of three academies, etc.? “Most of these things have been done. Most of the things that I said that day [September 12, 2019, when the Feroze Shah Kotla was renamed Arun Jaitley Stadium] have been done, and I have written that in the letter as well,” he said.
Along with Rajat Sharma, DDCA CEO Ravi Kant Chopra, Chief Financial Officer Prem Kumar Vaish, and Manvi Dhodhi, General Manager (Cricket Operations), besides Cricket Advisory Committee members Yashpal Sharma and Sunil Valson also resigned on Saturday.
A few DDCA members, apparently disillusioned at the style of Sharma’s work, had circulated a ‘no-confidence motion’ against him a few days ago. But the dramatic turn of events took place on Friday when Sharma’s own supporters in the DDCA Apex Council turned the tables on him in his absence at an ‘Apex Council meeting’ held in a posh south Delhi locality. The council moved a resolution by circulation that was actually not to remove Sharma, but was aimed at showing their strength to him. The resolution was for the removal of DDCA CEO Ravikant Chopra appointed by Sharma.
An Apex Council member who was present at the meeting said that nine out of 16 members had signed on the resolution, first moved on November 13, and apparently the tenth member, said to be a government nominee, joined on Saturday morning. The signatories are: Rakesh Bansal (vice-president), Vinod Tihara (secretary), Rajan Manchanda (joint secretary), Renu Khanna (women Director), Sanjay Bhardwaj (first-class cricketer, Director), Alok Mittal, Apurv Jain, Nitin Gupta, and SN Sharma.
With a majority of the 16 Apex Council having switched to the other side, Sharma read the crystal clear writing on the wall and tendered his resignation at 10.30 am on Saturday; a source said he had made up him mind on Friday itself. All of these nine members, except for Bhardwaj, who sat on a hunger strike some time ago against Sharma, and to an extent Manchanda, have been president’s men who had swept the June 27-30, 2018, elections. But the DDCA has a tumultuous history and it lived up to its ‘tradition’ for the umpteenth time. This turn of events was decisive for Rajat and it seemingly gave him no scope to stage a comeback.
Sharma admitted as much in his letter addressed to DDCA members. He rued that he faced “many road blocks, opposition and oppressions, just to keep me from discharging my duties in fair and transparent manner”. He also wrote that it was not “possible to carry on in the DDCA with my principles of integrity, honesty and transparency, which I am not willing to compromise at any cost”.
“We have family terms with Rajat ji, who is like an elder brother to me and I respect him. So, I wouldn’t like to say anything more about him,” Rajan Manchanda, who has had his differences with Sharma, told Outlook.
Sharma was said to be a candidate for the BCCI president’s post, but after his mentor and seasoned politician Arun Jaitley passed away his chances receded decisively. This is cited as one of the reason for his resignation. “Delhi Assembly elections are coming soon, and Rajat Sharma could well be taking the plunge,” said a DDCA source.
Many DDCA members, including the Apex Council members, were agitated against Sharma due to many reasons. These included: president’s inaccessibility to DDCA members; his long absence from the DDCA headquarters; members’ complaints not been heard, replied, or resolved; poor performance of the various men’s and women’s teams in domestic tournaments last year as well as in the ongoing season; and non-elected people occupying cricketing positions.