Cricket and politics go hand in hand in India. No surprise then that the game has queered the pitch in poll-bound Himachal Pradesh, as well. The two main players - the ruling BJP and Congress - are roughing it out and allegations are flying thick and fast in the run-up to the November 4 election.
On Saturday, the Congress accused chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal of bending over backwards for the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA), which is headed by the CM's son and MP Anurag Thakur.
The party has questioned the government over the allotment of land to the HPCA. "In the name of cricket, the CM has grabbed prime land and has gotten away with an illegal construction of a hotel for players, in Dharamsala," says All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary Birender Singh. "If the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) can fund a stadium's construction, it can foot the bill for buying land (for the hotel) also."
The opposition also charged the government of wrongfully waiving the Rs. 64 lakh bill for security provided by the state police during the recent Indian Premier League matches in Dharamsala.
Thakur accused the Congress of politicising sports in the state. "The Congress could not do anything for promoting sports in the state. It is sad that when we are doing something, they are criticising us," Thakur told Hindustan Times.
Apart from the Rs. 60-crore international cricket stadium in Dharamsala, HPCA has built a stadium in Bilaspur and Amtar in Naduan, at an estimated cost of Rs. 5 crore each.
In this case, the sport seems to have gained from political sparring.