So Sourav Ganguly did meet BJP party president Amit Shah a day before he decided to contest for the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) president's post. Although the former Indian captain denied any political influence, Ganguly's sudden decision to take on Brijesh Patel was perhaps buoyed by some unseen and beefy support.
Brijesh Patel was seen as N. Srinivasan's man. Srinivasan, the former strongman of world cricket, who got his daughter Rupa Gurunath elected as Tamil Nadu Cricket Association president recently, seemed to have his way in BCCI politics once again when the script saw a dramatic late-night change on Sunday after Ganguly decided to contest.
Interestingly, the three main office-bearers, who will officially take over after the BCCI AGM on October 23, has a strong BJP connection. Jay Shah (Amit Shah's son) will be secretary while Arun Singh Dhamal (the younger brother of BJP MP Anurag Thakur) will be treasurer. The equations were quickly worked out with Brijesh Patel getting the IPL chairman's position.
It may be pertinent to note that past BCCI presidents N. Srinivasan and Anurag Thakur have been sidelined by the Supreme Court for various reasons linked to the 2013 IPL match-fixing investigations. Never shy to flex their muscle, both Srinivasan and Thakur played behind the scene roles in influencing who runs the BCCI next. Their proxy roles will continue forever.
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Ganguly has always been a master tactician when it comes to his relationship with political leaders. When he was emerging as a potent force in Indian cricket, the CPM government was in power in West Bengal. He, like Bhaichung Bhutia, was known to be close to North Bengal's Ashok Bhattacharya, a senior leader in Bengal cabinet.
Later, when Mamata Banerjee came to power, the fiery Trinamool Congress chief was instrumental in making Ganguly the president of the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB). It neutralised the effect Srinivasan was trying to make by having his men elected in Bengal cricket.
The current situation with Ganguly as the BCCI president-elect leaves political analysts a bit perplexed. Mamata Banerjee expressed her delight in social media when newspapers in Kolkata went to town over Ganguly's decision to become the Board president. With BJP making a solid inroad in Bengal politics, questions on Ganguly's political allegiance is doing the rounds.
"I met Amit Shah for the first time ever. Neither did I ask a question on BCCI, whether I was going to get a post or not, nor any discussion of you will only get this if you agree to that’ happened. There is no political development. I’ve heard these political questions before too when I met Mamata didi, the chief minister of West Bengal," Ganguly said.
BJP's influence on Indian cricket has always been very strong. When Arun Jaitley was Delhi cricket's president, his relationship with former BCCI and CAB president Jagmohan Dalmiya was one of the strongest alliances in Indian cricket.
When Jaitley was part of the Union cabinet, he not only controlled votes of the BJP-ran states but also the institutional units like Railways, Services and the Universities.
BCCI insiders say Jaitley's death cost Delhi cricket boss and well-known media-person Rajat Sharma the BCCI president's position. About 10 months later when Ganguly's short tenure is over, chances that Rajat Sharma will take the hot seat are very strong.
Ganguly's charisma in Bengal is simply enormous. He anchors one of the most popular Bengali reality shows on TV -- Dadagiri. Almost all the Bengal celebrities like Trinamool Congress MPs Nusrat Jahan and Mimi Chakraborty or Babul Supriyo of BJP have been on Ganguly's show one time or the other. Shah certainly has Ganguly in his vision.
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Shah said "BJP didn't try to recruit him and neither did he deny joining the party." The BJP heavyweight added: "We don't need a face for the BJP in Bengal. We won 18 seats in Bengal without a face and lost few seats here and there."
On Ganguly joining BJP ahead of the 2021 Assembly elections in Bengal, Shah said: "If he does, its good. I tell every citizen of this country that the BJP is a good party to join. It's my
It is unlikely that Ganguly will choose a political career. Much sought after by Indian and overseas broadcasters, he is a respected cricket commentator and was a mentor to the Delhi
Capitals team in the IPL this year.
Although the BCCI ethics committee hauled him up for "conflict of interest," the controversial clause that has restricted several international stars like Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag from actively joining BCCI's projects, is going to be diluted.
Once watered down, Ganguly will be again free to wear multiple hats and remain in public life for as long as he wants. Given his intelligence, Ganguly is sure to have analysed that BJP has used him for a short-term gain to keep its grip on Indian cricket intact. There was no conflict of interest here. It was a win-win situation for both BJP and Ganguly.
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