While Prime Minister Manmohan Singh spoke against mixing politics and sports,if his ministers had mixed the two in another context,UPA-2 could have scripted a different story.
Look at the camaraderie between Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajeev Shukla and leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley,as they made common cause to thwart a concerted campaign for the ouster of BCCI president N Srinivasan.
In keeping with the Congress culture of sacrifice,Shukla himself resigned as IPL chairman,but shied away from demanding Srinivasans resignation.
As for the rest of the star cast,Union minister and RCA president C P Joshi maintained a studied silence,as did Gujarat Cricket Association president Narendra Modi. BCCI joint secretary and BJPs young face Anurag Thakur was reportedly convinced by Srinivasans persuasive arguments. Except Jyotiraditya Scindia,no other politician-cum-cricket administrator demanded Srinivasans resignation.
If only the Prime Minister had invoked the spirit of cricket displayed by his ministerial colleagues and opposition leaders to build political consensus on key legislations,the UPA wouldnt have been a story of missed opportunities.
Former president of the BCCI and the ICC,Sharad Pawar,whose party was the first to demand Srinivasans resignation,appeared to be the unifying factor as Congress and BJP leaders with stakes in the BCCI came together to bring back Jagmohan Dalmiya,Pawars old adversary in BCCI politics.
Those enjoying power and perks under Srinivasan had reasons to feel jittery given reports about the NCP chiefs plan to play another innings in cricket,with the Mumbai Cricket association elections scheduled in August.
Close associates of Pawar dismiss these suggestions as he had taken a public position that he would not return to cricket administration. When some people recently approached Pawar to suggest an alternative to Srinivasan,sources said he suggested Shashank Manohars name. This name did crop up at the meeting yesterday only to be hastily replaced by Dalmiyas. The choice of Dalmiya tells the entire story, said an NCP leader.
As for the Congressmen involved in this campaign,there were clear signals from the party. Sports Minister Jitendra Singh,a close aide of Rahul Gandhi who demanded Srinivasans resignation,had met Shukla and spoken his mind. The Prime Ministers remarks were also unambiguous. Yet,the game went on at the BCCI.
D K is a Senior Editor based in Delhi