After mother of all polls, BCCI braces for ‘baap’ elections

  • Ayaz Memon, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: May 20, 2016 00:55 IST

By common consensus, star performers in Thursday’s results to the five state Assemblies were Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal and J Jayalalithaa in Tamil Nadu. The BJP’s victory in Assam is mighty significant too, but considering the Congress has been slipping rapidly into existential dilemma, not entirely unexpected.

On the other hand, for these two ladies to overcome anti-incumbency and win without stitching any alliance is nothing short of spectacular. One can already sense the country’s political landscape beginning to get redefined for the 2019 general elections.

To draw on cricket for analogies, I’d say Ms Banerjee’s margin of victory reflects the current T20 form of Virat Kohli and Ab de Villiers rolled into one, whacking opponents all over the park with utter disdain, while Ms Jayalalithaa eked out a hard-fought win a la Rahul Dravid battling against odds on a treacherous pitch in a Test.

Now that I’ve sucked you into cricket, let’s turn attention to another bout of elections coming up. This one is to be held in Mumbai on Sunday, at the Cricket Centre in the Wankhede Stadium, where the next president of the BCCI will be chosen.

This has, as is well known, been necessitated by the resignation of Shashank Manohar about a fortnight ago, citing frustration at being unable to convince the Supreme Court that not all recommendations of the Justice RM Lodha panel are implementable.

The BCCI’s mandarins have been at sixes and sevens in coping with the Lodha panel’s sweeping reform agenda, and most are in agreement with Manohar’s lament. There are some, however, who believe that he sold the BCCI a dummy and exited to pursue his own ambition, for within a couple of days after resigning, he became the first independent chairman of the ICC!

Be that as it may, Manohar’s departure left the BCCI headless, looking for a fourth president in less than two years. To give you a backdrop, N Srinivasan had to abdicate in the crisis after the 2013 IPL corruption scam which forced the Supreme Court to step in, Jagmohan Dalmiya died in office about nine months after taking over and Manohar’s tenure lasted a little over six months.

While this is essentially an election to a sports body, it is no less significant in the national scheme of things. The BCCI is the most powerful cricket board in the world, and its president obviously enjoys enormous clout. The big argument against the BCCI, of course, is that it functions like some secret brotherhood and without the desired transparency.

Incidentally, national political parties are deeply entrenched in the power matrix of the Board: BJP, Congress, NCP, RJD, Shiv Sena, National Conference are among major parties that have had their functionaries in the BCCI for years.

While ideological differences between office-bearers of different parties are usually sandpapered over whenever the BCCI wants to present a united face to fight intrusion or inquiry into its affairs, these can erupt when there is a struggle to get power.

Therefore, for Sunday’s election, the names that had been doing the rounds for president in the past fortnight have been Anurag Thakur (BJP), Rajiv Shukla and Jyotiraditya Scindia (Congress), Ajay Shirke (doesn’t belong to a party, but very close to Sharad Pawar of the NCP), which is not very different from a regular political election.

Buzz is that 41-year-old Thakur, who has been honorary secretary since the collapse of the Srinivasan regime and seems to have the backing of the powers that be at the Centre, is frontrunner for the post.

But while the number of votes in the BCCI barely total 30, there are many twists, turns and hairpin bends for any aspirant to traverse before he can feel secured in the exalted office of the president.

Interestingly, neither of the two biggest winners in Thursday’s Assembly election results, Mamata Banerjee and J Jayalalithaa, have a direct stake in the BCCI elections. Nor, for that matter, two other big winners in the state elections in the recent past, Arvind Kejriwal and Nitish Kumar.

But there is little doubt that by the time the next BCCI elections are held the scenario would be different. Where there is so much mass appeal, moolah and power attached, who wouldn’t want a stake?

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