THOSE EXPECTING a calm after Sunday's storm were in for a shock. A day after his candidate Prasun Mukherjee lost in the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) elections, Chief Minister Buddadeb Bhattacharjee lashed out at Jagmohan Dalmiya.
Calling Dalmiya's victory an example of "evil prevailing over good", Bhattacharjee said: "Young cricketers of the state don't want Dalmiya. Eden Gardens is not getting matches because of him. He has many vested interests -- all other than cricket. I want him to go. My fight against him continues."
Senior CPM leaders, however, wasted no time in dissociating the party from the CM's comments. "The party shouldn't get involved in a sports-body election. I'll talk to the CM on Tuesday," said Biman Bose, CPI(M) state secretary.
Even party patriarch Jyoti Basu was not amused. "Dalmiya has won in a democratic election. Can he be described as an evil force? I hear the CM has said something. This has made the matter serious and we'll have to discuss it in our secretariat meeting. We must know what his charges against Dalmiya are."
What got lost in the din was the story of how Dalmiya won in the face of seemingly impossible odds: apart from Mukherjee, his opposition included the CM and Sourav Ganguly.
He could not have done so had there been no rift within the Left Front on the election issue, which meant the pressure from the state machinery was less intense than it could have been.
The man who helped Dalmiya the most was state sports and youth affairs minister Subhas Chakrabarty, who is known to have differences with the CM.
“He helped us negate the advantage our rivals got following Bhattacharjee’s announcement that he was behind Mukherjee.
“Due to Chakrabarty’s efforts, our rivals couldn’t sweep the votes from the districts,” said a source in the Dalmiya camp.
Dalmiya also got a helping hand from the neutral stand of many football clubs (some of which vote at the CAB).
None of them wanted to risk inviting interference from cricket administrators in the football association.
Some said the CM's support for Mukherjee sent wrong signals — voters were not ready to tolerate political intervention in sports organisations.
Then there was Dalmiya's experience of dealing with mostly the same set of voters.
“Our rivals thought temporary flamboyance was the name of the game,” said a member.
“They didn’t realise how important 30 years of experience can be. He knows which strings to pull and what the weaknesses of voters are.”
Dalmiya showed good form on Monday too — refraining from getting into a verbal duel with Bhattacharjee.
He initially thought of addressing the media but later said his reaction would come only after consulting association members.
Earlier, just after his win, he had said: “I badly needed this platform to give myself a chance to clear my image. I didn’t want to contest against the chief ministers wishes, but the overwhelming support from my members and the need for this platform forced me to."
He also spoke about Ganguly, whose family was actively involved in the ‘Dump Dalmiya’ campaign.
“As CAB president, it's my duty to look after every player. This is not just about Ganguly. As president and secretary of BCCI I stood by Virender Sehwag during the ball tampering controversy.
“I also supported Sachin Tendulkar, Harbhajan Singh when the going got tough for them.
“I have always looked after players. It is a religion for me.”
So, apparently, is winning.
Meanehile, under fresh attack from the West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee a day after being re-elected Cricket Association of Bengal president, Jagmohan Dalmiya today chose to remain silent.
"I have no comments to offer, nothing to say," Dalmiya told PTI.
Terming Dalmiya's win over Police Commissioner Prasun Mukherjee as a 'victory of evil over good', Bhattacharjee today vowed to continue the fight to remove the cricket administrator from the CAB in the interest of the game.
"So far I'm concerned I'll not compromise with this man. The battle will continue. I want him to leave this post. I want him to leave the organisation," Bhattacharjee said.