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Dalmiya's deputy tests pitch

New Delhi, Sept. 23: Sharad Pawar's rivals have fired a salvo to test his resolve to run for BCCI president.

Kamal Morarka, a political lightweight who counts among his friends cricket heavyweights like Jagmohan Dalmiya, has disapproved of a move by outsiders to enter the fray and asserted that he, too, might be compelled to contest.

Morarka, now a BCCI vice-president, did not mention Pawar's name in a brief statement issued today but left none in doubt that he was alluding to the Union agriculture minister's interest in the cricket boss' post.

'If any person other than from the north zone contests the election for president, BCCI, I wish to make it clear that though I am from the central zone, I shall also contest,' Morarka said.

Under the cricket establishment's quota system, the new president ' scheduled to be picked on September 29 ' will have to be a nominee of the north zone.

But such geographical limitations are not expected to stand in the way of a serious contender. If west zone's Pawar eventually takes the plunge as he had hinted at, his name is expected to be proposed by the cricket association of either Punjab or Jammu and Kashmir.

Known for his proximity to current president Dalmiya, Morarka has not directly opposed Pawar's bid. He has contended that since it is the turn of the north zone to occupy the post, it should be held by someone from that segment.

Nor has Morarka, a minister in the erstwhile Chandra Shekhar government, announced his candidature. He said there are 'experienced and capable persons in the north zone' but did not name anyone.

Morarka, considered among those instrumental in elevating Dalmiya as the BCCI patron-in-chief, belongs to the Rajasthan Cricket Association, part of the central zone.

So far, the names of BJP leader and Delhi association president Arun Jaitley and Haryana's Ranbir Singh Mahendra have been doing the rounds as possible candidates. Both enjoy a good rapport with the outgoing president.

But Jaitley is said to be not keen on a contest as the issue has already assumed a political hue. If the race becomes a BJP-versus-rest affair, Pawar will have a clear edge because the Congress, which holds sway over a considerable number of votes, will wholeheartedly support him.

However, an apolitical contest could make the race tight. 'Morarka has only made a statement of intent. But where is the real challenger' asked a Pawar confidant, suggesting that more powerful players could be behind the statement.

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