Sourav Ganguly in; Game, set, match over for Mamata?
Sourav Ganguly becoming the president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) should please most but one person: Mamata Banerjee, chief minister of Bengal.
Ganguly appears to be the latest pawn which Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has forwarded on the chessboard of Bengal politics by nudging him ahead of other claimants to the post of BCCI chief.
Till late on Saturday, Ganguly seemed resigned to conceding to Brijesh Patel the coveted post till a last-minute diplomacy, triggered by Union state minister Anurag Thakur, formerly a president of the BCCI himself, completely flipped the equation on its head.
Thakur apparently got Ganguly to visit Union home minister Amit Shah at latter’s residence in the Capital on Saturday night where a long-term deal appears to be have been struck.
The other two claimants, Brijesh Patel and Rajat Sharma, president of the Delhi cricket body, were nudged to make way for Ganguly.
Even though Ganguly and Mamata Banerjee share a cordial relationship and the thoroughfares of Kolkata are full of hoardings donning the two arguably the most well-known faces of Bengal, their equation is set to take a nosedive with this latest throw of dice of BJP in the state politics.
Ganguly is popular, charismatic and ambitious which works perfectly fine to BJP’s designs who are looking to wrest the state of Bengal from the clutches of Mamata Banerjee and her party, Trinamool Congress.
Ms Banerjee is already on a shaky ground following the 2019 General Elections in which BJP secured 18 to TMC’s 23 seats and all but caused one of the biggest upsets on India’s political landscape.
That performance catapulted BJP to 300-plus seats in the 2019 General Polls and raised distinct prospects of the party upsetting the TMC applecart in the 2021 assembly polls.
Left, which ruled for most years of independent India in the state, has already been cast aside and Congress has just a straw to hold on to in the turbulent waters of state politics. BJP is on a definite upswing while TMC is heading for a crash in the state.
Ms Banerjee, sensing the changing fortunes, has mellowed down considerably in her utterances and has discarded the politics of confrontation. She has hired the services of political maverick Prashant Kishor to rewire her crumbling image. She also has become a new enthusiast in warming up to Hindu constituents of her state. Whereas she used to disdainfully give preference to Muharram ahead of Durga Puja festivities, she was conspicuous with her presence in most “pandals” in the city of Kolkata during the recently held Durga Puja.
But the man of the moment is Sourav Ganguly, arguably India’s most charismatic cricket captain and the one who has defied odds on more than one occasion during his illustrious career.
Ganguly was seen as an “implant” into the Indian team, a no-gooder, before he stunned his detractors with two centuries in his first two Tests in England in 1996. He then steered Indian cricket through a difficult period of “match-fixing” in 2000 by leading a bunch of rookies to the final of the Champions Trophy in Nairobi, Kenya. He then successfully united Indian cricketers in taking on the might of the BCCI when players’ felt undone by controversial clauses in its contract ahead of the 2003 World Cup. He waged a personal battle against the then coach Greg Chappell who all but ended his cricket career with his vendetta politics. Ganguly rode the choppy waters, grinded his way through domestic cricket to make a stunning comeback in international cricket. He finally ended with 113 Tests and nearly 19,000 international runs. His association with Sachin Tendulkar at the top of India’s one-day batting order is the stuff of legends.
Ganguly also has earned personal loyalty of a whole lot of cricketers who flourished during his reign. Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh, Ashish Nehra, Yuvraj Singh, Zaheer Khan etc all were part of a new and brave Indian cricket under Ganguly’s leadership.
Though Ganguly isn’t expected to be at the BCCI helm for long, he still is most likely to succeed in thwarting the attempts of International Cricket Council (ICC) to rob Indian cricket of its legitimate financial rewards. He also would do his best to abolish the often idiotic “conflict of interest” handle which the Committee of Administrators (CoA) used to beat the office-bearers with. Then there is the players’ body which would take his utmost attention. A cricketer at the helm of world’s richest cricket body is a good news anyway.
Still, the larger picture is one of politics. Now that he is the handpick of BJP, it’s easy to see how he could become the chief minister of Bengal in two years’ time. He has a magnetic hold on the people of the state and frankly already-tarnished Mamata Banerjee would be no match to his charisma, come the state assembly elections of 2021.
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