In Bengal, Sourav Ganguly-BCCI issue takes political turn

Sourav Ganguly’s exit as BCCI president has become a subject of political spat rather than a sports administration affair.

The matter has taken such a political turn that even the most prominent faces of the ruling and the opposition parties in the state, namely Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and the leader of the opposition in West Bengal Assembly Suvendu Adhikari have taken up the batons to fight their battles on behalf of their respective political parties.

The beginning was made by Mamata Banerjee, when she questioned the justification of Sourav Ganguly’s removal from the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) president’s chair. She said that “when Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s son, Jay Shah, could continue as the BCCI secretary, what was the harm in allowing a second term to the former Indian cricket team captain as the board’s president”. The chief minister also said that she would talk to Prime Minister Narendra Modi so that Ganguly can represent India for the chair of International Cricket Council (ICC) chairman.

Hours after the statement from the chief minister on October 17, Adhikari came out with his counter demanding the appointment of Ganguly as the brand ambassador of West Bengal and replacing Bollywood megastar, Shah Rukh Khan. The leader of the opposition also said that the chief minister’s comments that Ganguly is the pride of West Bengal was a reflection of her late realization on this count. “Otherwise, she would have made Ganguly the state’s brand ambassador long back,” Adhikari said.

CPI-M was, however, trying to maintain a safe distance from this political spat over this Ganguly issue. Senior CPI-M leader and former West Bengal municipal affairs & urban development minister in the earlier Left Front regime, Ashok Bhattacharya, with whom Sourav Ganguly continues to share a cordial relationship, said that both Trinamool Congress and the BJP should keep away from making the former Indian cricket team captain a pawn in the political tug-of-war.

“I request both BJP and Trinamool Congress to stop dragging Sourav in this manner. He is beyond politics. However, I agree that Sourav is the fittest person to represent in ICC and I will be extremely happy to see him as the chairman there,” Bhattacharya said.

Now, in the midst of this political tug-of-war, the question that is being asked is whether Sourav Ganguly, who had always maintained a fine balance in his associations with leaders across the party lines without directly getting involved in politics has ultimately himself become a toy in the political mud-slinging.

Political observers feel that it was unfortunate that in West Bengal, where there is an inclination to reap political mileage on each and every issue, even sports and sportsmen are not spared. “This is not the first time that cricket and Sourav Ganguly has been dragged into politics in the state,” pointed out a veteran political analyst.

In July 2006, cricket in West Bengal for the first time witnessed a bitter political tussle over the elections for Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) president, where veteran in the cricket administration circuit and former BCCI president, Late Jagmohan Dalmiya was pitted against the-then Kolkata Police Commissioner, Prasun Mukherjee, openly having the backing of the erstwhile West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

At that point of time, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, not only received criticism from the then opposition Trinamool Congress but also from sections within his own party, CPI-M for backing the erstwhile city police commissioner for that post. Even former state chief minister and nonagenarian Indian Marxist patriarch, Late Jyoti Basu opposed Prasun Mukherjee’s nomination on “one-man-two-posts” grounds. Trinamool Congress directly accused Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee of attempting to capture CAB using the erstwhile city police commissioner.

Again in 2007, when Ganguly was dropped from the national ODI side, a large section of the Bengal politicians described the development as a conspiracy against him because he was from Bengal. A number of popular actors from the Bengali cinema world too then joined the protests.

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