The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Board battle too close to call
Last-minute lift for Dalmiya camp

Calcutta, Nov. 28: Instead of taking a special flight after the Mumbai one-dayer, Board of Control for Cricket in India presidential aspirant Sharad Pawar left for Calcutta during the break ' an acknowledgement that the elections will be a lot closer than expected.

The elections are tomorrow, once the AGM is reconvened.

Besides support from the Congress, the Pawar camp was banking on Supreme Court-appointed observer T.S. Krishnamurthy to debar Jagmohan Dalmiya supporters from representing Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, National Cricket Club and Uttar Pradesh. As also taking away the president’s vote as chairman of the AGM.

The former chief election commissioner, though, only upheld objections against Himachal. His rulings, most significant being that president Ranbir Singh Mahendra would continue to have two votes (as chairman and the casting one), promptly lifted the Dalmiya group’s morale.

Simultaneously, it made the Pawar camp realise nothing could be taken for granted. Late tonight, there was talk that Krishnamurthy may “reopen” the Himachal issue as all documents ' including a stay order obtained by Dalmiya backer Anurag Mathur ' probably weren’t placed before him.

Should a fresh ruling favour Mathur (and not Rajendra Zar), the amended voters’ list is then going to have a 15-14 look in Pawar’s favour. With two floating votes, absolutely anything can happen.

Few, by the way, have forgotten that Dalmiya’s casting vote stopped Pawar last year.

“This has become Dalmiya’s biggest fight ever. He began on the backfoot, but has recovered much ground. His group hasn’t lost yet,” a source, who has closely watched developments, said.

Pawar, who reached his camp’s hotel after 10 pm, asked the media to “wait” for 24 hours. Publicly, at least, he didn’t give anything away to suggest Krishnamurthy’s rulings had upset him.

Earlier, both Dalmiya and Inderjit Singh Bindra (the very public face of Pawar’s campaign) expressed confidence, but both can’t be winners. Bindra, of course, was once Dalmiya’s closest ally but much water has flowed between Chandigarh and Calcutta in the last eight years.

Whatever the posturing within the region, Pawar has breached the East: Assam has been won over, thanks to his Congress connections. Andhra, too, may go the powerful Union minister’s way.

The Dalmiya group, however, has thwarted attempts to wean away Gujarat (headed by Congressman Narhari Amin) and Services. Apparently, a “commitment” has been received from Orissa.

Incidentally, with everybody focused on Krishnamurthy’s rulings, word came that Pondicherry ' which is part of the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association ' had moved the Supreme Court. The grounds couldn’t be confirmed, but the apex court is unlikely to interfere till the election process has been completed.

Asked if the results would be declared by the evening, Krishnamurthy said “hopefully”. He has been ducking the media (“please understand my predicament”), but promised to speak once the AGM’s real business gets over.

Meanwhile, the nominations have been on expected lines (Dalmiya group first): Mahendra versus Pawar; Goutam Das Gupta against Niranjan Shah (secretary’s post); Brijesh Patel versus Mohinder Pandove (joint-secretary) and Jyoti Bajpai against N. Srinivasan (treasurer).

Many fingers will be kept crossed overnight.

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