| Pawar after the BCCI victory. (AFP)
Nov. 29: Sharad Pawar’s takeover of the country’s richest and most powerful sports body might be a personal milestone and has broken the hegemony of Jagmohan Dalmiya, but it is being seen by many as a step backward for a man who wanted to be Prime Minister.
The buzz from the Maharashtra and Delhi political circuits is that his election as BCCI president is a signal that Pawar has finally given up his cherished ambition to rule the country.
He is instead looking for smaller glories. As BCCI chief, the Maharashtra strongman will be able to travel abroad frequently, attend ICC meetings, sanction stadiums, strike deals and patronise his rich and famous friends, but for an average party worker all this means nothing.
The political situation in his home state, where not a day passes without some partymen crossing over to the Congress, has contributed to his “disinclination” towards politics. Battling illness and a diminishing political base, Pawar is unwilling to toil without getting the country’s top job.
This is one of the explanations being cited for his tilt towards cricket. When his associate N.K.P. Salve was heading the BCCI some years ago, Pawar would often rib the chartered accountant, asking him why he was “wasting time” on a leisure pursuit identified with the maharajahs of Patiala, Vizianagaram and Gwalior.
But as defence minister during the early nineties, he took to sports. Najma Heptullah, a former Congress leader now in the BJP, recalls how she was amused to see Pawar walking with a heavy golf kit. When she probed him, he said it helped him in his job.
A close associate of the minister, however, claimed he had always been a sports lover. Pawar was associated with the National Wrestling Federation.
“Kabaddi was included in the Asian Games because of his efforts,” recalled a member of the Mumbai Cricket Association. He was also head of the Maharashtra Olympic Association, another supporter pointed out.
With cricket, of course, Pawar has family ties: his father-in-law Sadashiv Ganpatrao Shinde was a leg-spinner who made his debut at Lord’s.
And then, going by one estimate, the game in India is worth over Rs 1,500 crore ' a middle-size business empire that is growing all the time.