It became clear on Tuesday in sporting and political circles that former Indian cricket captain Sourav Ganguly will not get a second term as the president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). Quick to react, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) targeted the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and accused it of acting in “political vendetta” against one of West Bengal’s biggest sporting icons.
“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? We are with you Dada!,” Trinamool Congress Rajya Sabha MP Santanu Sen tweeted.
The tweet by a senior Trinamool leader is an attempt to suggest Mr. Ganguly has been side-lined since he is from West Bengal, thereby attempting to raise the plank of “Bengali nationalism”, an issue which the party used successfully in the 2021 Assembly polls.
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Earlier this year, in May, Union Home Minister Amit Shah had dinner at Mr. Ganguly’s Kolkata residence along with other senior BJP leaders from the State. The very next day, on May 8, Mr. Ganguly was heard describing Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee as “ kaacher manus“ (someone very close to him). Mr. Ganguly was also present at a grand event organised by the West Bengal Government on September 1 to thank UNESCO for including ‘Durga Puja in Kolkata’ in its list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Not only has Mr. Ganguly met Ms. Banerjee a number of times at the State Secretariat, he was also much sought after in the earlier Left Front regime, and its then former Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee never missed an opportunity to meet him. The left-handed batsman always found himself on the right side of the Left regime, and had Ministers like Asok Bhattacharya publicly proclaiming themselves a fan of the former Indian captain. Recently, Mr. Bhattacharya, who seemed upset with both the BJP and TMC for reaching out to Mr. Ganguly and using him politically, had said that such overtures were putting pressure on the cricketing legend.
Considering the popularity that Mr. Ganguly enjoys in West Bengal, there has always been speculation over his entry into politics. Sources in the BJP said the party leadership had been trying to rope Mr. Ganguly into its fold as far back as the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. According to a senior BJP leader, Mr. Ganguly was offered any seat of his choice in the State in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, which the cricketer considered too much of a risky shot.
Following the BJP’s performance in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, when it won 18 of the 42 parliamentary seats in West Bengal, and the party seriously thought it had a chance at unseating Ms. Banerjee, Mr. Ganguly was seen as their best bet. In January 2021, when he fell ill, wishes poured in from the BJP hierarchy, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi. As the 2021 Assembly polls drew nearer and a number of Bengali stalwarts, including actor Mithun Chakraborty, joined the saffron camp, the BJP leadership patiently waited for Mr. Ganguly to step out of his crease and hit a six for the party. Mr. Ganguly, who had been the BCCI president since October 2019, however, sensed the political mood and remained non-committal towards both the BJP and the Trinamool.
After the party’s 2021 West Bengal Assembly poll debacle, the BJP’s central leadership appears to have lost interest in the politics of the State and there are hardly any visits by its central leaders. The developments at the BCCI meeting in Mumbai indicate that the BJP leadership may have given up on its wait for Mr. Ganguly. Meanwhile, there is speculation that Mr. Ganguly may be eyeing a key post at the International Cricket Council.