Chennai, March 21 (IANS) Atanu Lahiri, the 44-year old chess International Master (IM), is a relieved man today. No more stints of going ‘underground’ and travelling without luggage, staying at various places for very short durations each time and having his chess supporters threatened by various persons.
Lahiri’s panel of candidates has won the Bengal Chess Association (BCA) elections.
Since August 2019, Lahiri was under pressure when India’s second chess Grand Master (GM) and Arjuna Awardee Dibyendu Barua took the Indian chess world by surprise, levelling various charges against Lahiri, including misuse of power as BCA Secretary and conflict of interest with regard to a West Bengal government project to teach chess to tribal students in the state.
“We were under immense pressure for the past several days. Thanks to the courts and the judges, the elections for BCA were held and our team won the polls against the team led by Barua,” said Lahiri, himself a former Secretary of BCA, over phone from Kolkata.
It was an overwhelming victory for the contestants put up by Lahiri as even Barua lost to Santanu Lahiri (Atanu Lahiri’s brother) in the fight for BCA President’s post.
But the run-up to the elections was like a game of chess for Lahiri as he went into hiding. It was like castling the King.
He collected nomination forms from two different persons so that at least one could be filed should the other is withdrawn from the contest due to external pressure. The move resembled a knight fork threatening two rooks or an En Passant move.
Finally, there was the surfacing of his election delegates/candidates right on the day of the elections — akin to a discovered check in chess.
“The 15 days prior to the polls were very challenging for me and our team as immense pressure was mounted on us from various quarters, including official,” alleged Lahiri.
On his part, Lahiri said that he went into incommunicado mode and travelled to different places secretly without any luggage.
“I secretly travelled to Darjeeling and other places and collected the election nomination forms from two persons each time. I took my friend’s mobile phone, keeping mine back in Kolkata. I was always on the move every couple of days, spending the night at friends’ places. I had one point man whom I contacted for follow-up actions,” Lahiri said.
According to him, his supporters were housed in a secret place from where they came to the poll venue to vote.
“The 2020 BCA elections were historic. It was for the first time in the history of Indian chess, and perhaps in other Indian sports bodies as well, that a preferential system of voting was implemented. After several delays, the elections were finally held on March 15,” he said.
Last time the BCA elections were a simple affair when delegates from district associations voted and elected different office-bearers.
“This time around the election rules were changed. The elections were held in two phases. In the first phase of preferential voting by the affiliates of BCA, 13 of our candidates won as against three from the opposite camp. In the second phase of polls for BCA office-bearers, all the important positions were won by our candidates,” Lahiri said.
As per the BCA rules, Lahiri was not eligible to contest for any post and hence he was not in the poll fray, but he fielded his brother — a chess player and teacher — for the post of BCA President.
He said the bye-laws of BCA needed to be re-drafted in line with the rules of the All India Chess Federation (AICF) and the National Sports Development Code (NSDC).
The existing rules were drafted 10 years ago in a hurried manner and its ambiguity resulted in court cases to delay polls. An attempt was made to revise the rules but owing to some technical problems these were not pushed through, the former BCA Secretary said.
Queried on giving the players a voice in running the state/national associations, Lahiri said: “If the associations truly serve the players, then the players should have a say in the former’s affairs. Players of certain stature — say FIDE rated players — and who are of 18 years of age should be allowed to vote and thereby elect the office-bearers. But such a thing has to be approved by the government and the AICF.”