The rising influx of Trinamool Congress leaders in Cricket Association of Bengal has raised concerns regarding the role the ruling party might play in the management of the sport in the state.
The Cricket Association of Bengal’s 83rd annual general Meeting on July 27 will see a host of TMC leaders, apparently influenced by chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s well-known enthusiasm for the game.
Aroop Biswas, minister of youth services and housing, Kolkata South MP Subrata Bakshi will be attending the meet as working committee members from Tollygunge Agragami and Bhawanipore Club, respectively. This apart, minister for public health and engineering Subrata Mukherjee, who was nominated president of Ballygunge United Club on July 13, and TMC general secretary Mukul Roy, representing Greer Sporting Club, will be present.
Minister of food and supplies Jyotipriyo Mullick, likely to represent Calcutta University Institute, MLA Shilbhadra Dutta (North 24 Parganas) and MPs Srinjoy Bose (Mohun Bagan) and Sultan Ahmed (Mohammedan Sporting) will join their party mates at the CAB boardroom.
The growing presence of TMC leaders in the cricket outfit is raising eyebrows with many minds wondering whether the party was trying to hold sway over CAB affairs.
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A former CAB office bearer did not rule out the possibility. “I’m not smelling a rat as yet. But this could just be the beginning. Who knows what will happen a few years down the line,” he asked, on the condition of anonymity.
“District members have always been influenced by the ruling parties. It happened during the Left Front regime as well. But this influx of high-profile MLAs and MPs is something new in Bengal cricket circles.
“As long as the chief minister reposes faith in CAB president Jagmohan Dalmiya, there won’t be any direct TMC involvement. The day she loses faith, the association will cede its power to political hands,” he added.
He also blamed some present office bearers for “talking big” and enticing politicians to jump on to the cricketing bandwagon. “Bragging about achievements and giving statements at the drop of a hat don’t serve any purpose. They just make outsiders curious. In any case, CAB, or cricket, is high-profile and lucrative,” he said.
Minister Subrata Mukherjee, however, said there was nothing to be read between the lines.
“We are coming in our individual capacities and not as ministers or TMC heavyweights. We love the game and are connected to it locally.
In my case, Ballygunge United is a very old club in my locality and I was requested to take charge after Bablu Koley resigned as president. I’ve been associated with the Kolkata maidan for many years now. Yes, this is my first foray into cricket, but as the president of the club, I’m expected to look after all sports,” Mukherjee told The Indian Express.
He rubbished the concern that Mamata Banerjee and her party were trying to take over cricket in Bengal.
“It’s complete nonsense. I doubt if she knows how many of us are going to CAB. Compare this with her predecessor Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, who openly supported Dalmiya’s rival (Prasun Mukherjee) during a CAB presidential election and denigrated the veteran administrator after his victory.”
Mukherjee has already set out his priorities as a CAB member. “The drainage system at Eden Gardens is primitive. It has to be overhauled with the help of modern technology.”
CAB joint-secretary Bablu Ganguly said it was too early to draw a conclusion.
“Out of 96 clubs, this annual general meeting will see just one or two changes in representation. Yes, there are changes in district nominations. Still, I would say the situation is normal and those who are coming love the sport. But, I can’t comment about the future.”
CAB treasurer Biswarup Dey agreed. “Let’s see what happens,” he said.