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Election action hits the club

Assembly elections in Bengal being such a yawn, the real poll battles are being fought in the state's sports associations and social clubs.

The hotbed of election action in town now stretches from Eden Gardens to Calcutta Club. And at both, the Ganguly connection cannot be missed ' nephew Sourav's shadow looming large over one election venue and uncle Debidas the focal point at the other.

If the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) will host the grandmother of all elections this Sunday, an array of appetisers has been served up by the city's old-world clubs bearing the British legacy in the run-up to the Jagmohan Dalmiya vs Prasun Mukherjee showdown.

'It may seem a small battle from the outside, but for the club, a contest for the top post is almost like a matter of life and death. It's all about power and prestige,' observed a club veteran who has been there and done that.

The big fight in the club ring is slated for Friday at Calcutta Club, which celebrates its centenary next year.

For the first time since 1995, the president's post is being contested. Noted gastro surgeon N.K. Pal had stood against president-elect Ujjal Kanti Chowdhury and won 11 years back, ruffling feathers in an establishment priding its fondness for tradition ' in this case, an unwritten norm that the senior-most member of the committee slips smoothly into the president's chair.

By that token, it's the turn of Debidas Ganguly, uncle of ousted Indian skipper Sourav, whose explosive e-mail has eclipsed all else in the countdown to the CAB polls.

It's another man with the scalpel slipping on the challenger's gloves this time ' uro surgeon Dipak Mukherjee has decided to defy tradition and run for president.

While senior members are resenting the 'contest' and some are 'extremely irked' by the campaigning over phone, the buzz is that the battle for the ballot will go down to the wire ' much like the CAB slugfest that could go into a tie-breaker.

'We normally see a turnout of around 1,600 members on the day of the AGM, but this time, we are expecting 1,800 to 2,000 members to show up,' says a Calcutta Club member.

The tone for a week of tough turf battles was set on Monday at a stormy Royal Calcutta Turf Club (RCTC) EGM, that saw steward Deepak Khaitan joining Sujit Bhattacharyya in the exit row. Cyrus Madan and Kishore Bhimani were inducted on the panel, already comprising Shankar Roy Chowdhury, J.N. Sapru and P.C. Lal.

At the crux of the controversy lies a property the club owns on DL Khan Road, proposed to be developed into a highrise residential-cum-commercial estate. Another thorny issue is the appointment of Sudhir Johar as general manager.

At the CC&FC, storm clouds blew over in the eleventh hour after a move by member Iqbal Ahmed to contest for vice-president was 'sorted out' by the management.

Ahmed had opposed the nomination of L. Jhingan as vice-president by incoming president Noomi Mehta.

Last-ditch parleys on Sunday saw Kiran Desai emerge as a 'consensus candidate' for vice-president. So, there won't be an election now at Wednesday's AGM.

The last time the Ballygunge bastion had to go to the polls to pick its president was in 1995.

Across the road at DI, it was a cordial affair on July 16, as former cricketer Russi Jeejeebhoy took over reins as president in a 'historic mutual agreement'.

Outgoing president Derek O'Brien himself proposed Jeejeebhoy's name as president and opted for the senior vice-president's post instead.

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