Calcutta, July 31: The battle over the Cricket Association of Bengal ' made synonymous by the chief minister today with a crusade against Jagmohan Dalmiya ' is not over with last night’s election. It may only have begun.
“If you want to call it a jihad, go ahead and write it,” Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee thundered, shaking in rage at Writers’ Buildings when asked if he was starting a crusade against Dalmiya.
Bhattacharjee presided over a landmark agreement with the Indonesian Salim Group earlier in the day for the widest range of projects ever in Bengal, but it did little to brighten up the gloom of his candidate Prasun Mukherjee’s loss to Dalmiya in the election to the CAB president’s post by five votes.
At the signing ceremony, he refused to comment on the election. At Writers’, his restraint fell apart.
“What is your reaction'” the chief minister was asked.
“It is a victory of evil over good, over right-thinking people. This happens at times,” he replied, anger seeping out of his skin.
His comment was greeted with shock and disbelief in his party and outside. Predecessor Jyoti Basu spoke disapprovingly of Bhattacharjee’s comments, saying that the issue should be discussed in the CPM secretariat, representing the highest state-level body.
“I must make it clear that the Left Front had no candidate for the CAB president’s post. Mukherjee was the chief minister’s candidate and the fact is that he lost,” Basu said.
At times, the CAB battle has almost looked like a proxy clash between Basu and Bhattacharjee. Never more so than now, perhaps.
The defeat this year has not dissuaded the chief minister from renewing the battle of “good” versus “evil”. Bhattacharjee clearly said that next year, too, Dalmiya would have to face his candidate.
Officials said the chief minister called up Mukherjee, the police commissioner, and told him to prepare for next year’s battle. Bhattacharjee is believed to have said that with only two months of preparation time before the poll, Mukherjee hadn’t done too badly.
Now he has a full year to plan for unseating Dalmiya, the chief minister told him.
What the chief minister delivered this afternoon was not a hint but a hammer blow.
“It is a fight between justice and injustice. The fight will continue. Young cricketers want Dalmiya to leave the organisation. I will not compromise with wrongdoing. This man has many vested interests outside cricket, he has to go,” he said.
Observers were asking what he meant by “wrongdoing”, following up with “vested interests outside cricket”. His government has been unhappy with Dalmiya’s handling of the leather complex, a contract he received in Basu’s time. Critics say the state government lost out on the deal.
There are also critics of the chief minister getting involved in an insignificant issue as the CAB election. But he himself doesn’t thinks so.
“If I did not interfere, it would have been a crime. My interference was necessary to save Eden Gardens and the future of cricket. So I told sports minister Subhas Chakraborty to persuade Dalmiya not to contest the election. Sports-lovers were not appreciating the workings of the CAB. Eden is one of the best stadiums in the world, but it has been turned into an abandoned one in Dalmiya’s regime.”
Chakraborty is not by the chief minister’s side at this hour. “Many said Dalmiya had an overwhelming influence in CAB. The results show no one can remain unchallenged. It has been a good win, democracy has flourished. I congratulate Dalmiya,” he said, adding that people should accept this verdict in a sportsman’s spirit.
The chief minister perforce has to accept the result but that is about it. “Now that Dalmiya has won the election, will you compromise with him'”
“I shall never compromise with such a person and I want him to leave the organisation. Or else, the future of Bengal cricket is doomed,” he replied.