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Just not cricket: Sourav Ganguly BCCI innings set to end, Bengal parties blame ‘spurned’ BJP

TMC, Cong, CPM ask if Sourav paying price for not joining BJP; draw parallels with Jay Shah continuing

Former India captain Sourav Ganguly is set to become a former BCCI president. (File)

As Sourav Ganguly’s term as BCCI president heads to an end, political parties in West Bengal are alleging foul play by the BJP. Pointing to how Ganguly had been courted by the BJP ahead of the 2021 Assembly elections, they have alleged that the former India skipper was paying the price for saying no to the BJP.

Before the 2021 Assembly polls, as the BJP had made proclamations about giving the TMC a fight, Ganguly’s name had been thrown up as a probable chief minister candidate of the party. However, Ganguly, who kept his cards close to his chest, had in the end not taken the plunge into politics.

On May 7 this year, Ganguly had hosted a dinner at his home for visiting Union minister Amit Shah, which had led to a fresh round of speculation.

If the Trinamool Congress targeted the BJP, especially Shah, after news emerged that Roger Binny was set to replace Ganguly, the CPM and Congress asked how the BCCI could justify retaining Amit Shah’s son Jay Shah but “dumping” Ganguly. After the Supreme Court amended its order and tweaked the cooling off clause in the BCCI constitution, its office-bearers, incumbent president Ganguly and secretary Shah were all entitled to an extension.

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Binny, a member of the 1983 World Cup winning team, filed his nomination for the post of BCCI president Tuesday and is likely to get the top job unopposed when the Board holds its AGM on October 18.

TMC spokesperson Kunal Ghosh said, “The BJP earlier gave the impression that Sourav Ganguly would join them. But that did not happen… I am not saying anything directly… but since the BJP used his name before, during and after the Assembly polls, it is the BJP who must answer people as to why he is not being given a second BCCI term. It seems the BJP is trying to humiliate Sourav.”

Before the BJP appeared to have zeroed in on Ganguly as the face it needed for Bengal, the batsman who is hugely popular in the state had been wooed by the Trinamool. Sources close to him said that he felt under tremendous pressure from both sides in the run-up to the 2021 polls, and finally decided not to join politics.

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Incidentally, since the elections, in which the BJP ultimately could not stop the TMC’s sweep, Ganguly is believed to have again come close to the ruling Bengal party.

A source close to the cricketer said: “His association with TMC leaders makes the BJP unhappy. Probably that is the reason behind his exclusion from the BCCI.” Earlier this year, days after hosting the dinner for Shah, Ganguly met Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at Nabanna, and also attended a “thanks giving rally to UNESCO” held by the TMC government for its heritage tag to Durga Puja.

The Bengal BJP leadership denied any “vendetta” against Ganguly, saying one should not do politics over a sports personality like him.

BJP national vice-president Dilip Ghosh called the allegations “baseless”.

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BJP leader Samik Bhattacharya said that by dragging Ganguly’s name into politics, the other parties were “basically humiliating Ganguly, his career, credit and credibility”.

A senior BJP leader said the Ganguly chapter should not be considered closed. “You never know, he may be nominated as the ICC (International Cricket Council) chief in the future. So, this is not the time to conclude anything.”

An Indian Express report that appeared on Wednesday, though, said that this was a remote possibility, with the BCCI not likely to back Ganguly.

Among those who drew a parallel between Ganguly’s case and Jay Shah’s was TMC Rajya Sabha MP Santanu Sen. “Another example of political vendetta. Son of @AmitShah can be retained as Secretary of #BCCI. But @SGanguly99 can’t be. Is it because he is from the State of @MamataOfficial or he didn’t join @BJP4India?” he tweeted.

Congress Lok Sabha MP and West Bengal president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury told The Indian Express: “Just to project Jay Shah, the BJP is dumping Sourav Ganguly. His stature and personality in the BCCI outshone Jay Shah’s. That’s why he is being unceremoniously moved out… Ganguly is not only Bengal’s but the nation’s pride.”

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CPM leader Sujan Chakraborty said Ganguly was a natural claimant to the BCCI president post. “He is a former Indian captain and led the team from the front. Now, Jay Shah will continue and Sourav will be dropped, this is not acceptable. In Bengal, the TMC, and in the country, the BJP, have always tried to penetrate sports institutions.”

As per some leaders, the reason Ganguly was seen as close to the BJP was due to him working with Jay Shah, a BCCI secretary. At the May 6 dinner hosted by Ganguly for Shah at his residence in Kolkata, the other guests included Leader of Opposition Suvendu Adhikari and state BJP President Sukanta Majumder.

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Ganguly had also lavished praise on the cricket stadium built in Ahmedabad, the world’s largest, named after Narendra Modi. Regretting that he could not attend the launch, he tweeted “what an effort it must have been to create this”, and lauded the “leadership of Honble Prime Minister @narendramodi (and) Amit Shah @AmitShah”.

First published on: 12-10-2022 at 18:28 IST
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