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Dalmiya set for a comeback
- WITH EDEN AS THE PRIZE, BIG FIGHT IS TODAY

Calcutta: If Jagmohan Dalmiya wasn’t the king himself, then he would at least be the kingmaker.

That script, penned in the early 1990s, read unchanged till late 2005, when Sharad Pawar thrashed Dalmiya’s nominee Ranbir Singh Mahendra — a poor choice, really — in the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) elections.

A year earlier, Dalmiya’s casting vote had denied Pawar the top position and one didn’t have to be a fortune-teller to forecast that the influential Union minister would, sooner rather than later, get even.

Thirteen months after Pawar’s win, Dalmiya was banned from the BCCI, an act of vindictiveness which got challenged in court. Days later, he stepped down as president of the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB).

That was in end-December 2006.

Come Tuesday and Dalmiya, who has a favourable order from the Calcutta High Court, will be in an unsual role: Of a challenger, out to unseat Prasun Mukherjee, whom he’d defeated two years ago.

Actually, Mukherjee’s in the chair without winning an election.

To regain even a toehold in the BCCI and again become relevant, for starters within the East Zone, it’s an election Dalmiya must win.

According to well-placed sources of The Telegraph, Dalmiya is “comfortably placed.” However, we’ve just witnessed the defiance of whips and cross-voting on the biggest stage around — the Lok Sabha...

While those close to Dalmiya insist he has over 70 committed votes (a figure more or less borne out by whispers on the Maidan), they also concede that everybody in his panel may not win.

Clearly, such a possibility can’t be ruled out.

Eventually then it could well come to that, with a Samar Paul, an old Dalmiya-baiter for example, probably getting to retain his joint-secretary’s post.

After the finalisation of the voters’ list, the Dalmiya group is looking at garnering around 60 of the 92 votes from clubs, the support of 11 of the 17 districts having the right to vote at the AGM and the backing of six out of the nine ‘institutional’ affiliates.

For the record, the Mukherjee camp too is hopeful of getting through big. A spokesman went to the extent of saying they were assured of 68 votes, break-up being 47 from clubs, 13 from the districts and 8 ‘institutional’ affiliates.

With two disqualifications and the Bata Sports Club representative having to report at the company’s HQ in Gurgaon, on Tuesday morning, the voting strength is down to 118.

The president, being in the chair, has a casting vote.

Getting back to 2006, Mukherjee was then the city’s commissioner of police and, more important, had been handpicked by the chief minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

He also had the support of Bengal’s favourite son, Sourav Ganguly, but the former Team India captain became a liability after an ill-timed email from England (where he was doing duty for Northants).

So, neither the Buddha-card nor the Sourav-card worked for Mukherjee.

Indications are that Sourav’s threat to stop playing for Bengal if key men from the Dalmiya group didn’t end what he termed as an anti-Ganguly family campaign, hasn’t gone down well either.

Can’t be good news for Mukherjee, who continues to enjoy Sourav’s unqualified backing.

Moreover, this time, there seems to be no interference from the government. The biggest change, of course, is that Mukherjee is no more the commissioner. He was removed last October.

It’s true Mukherjee couldn’t swing it in 2006, despite being in that position, but it would almost surely have been different had he today been both the commissioner and the CAB president.

Perhaps, as significantly, there’s no indirect involvement of the BCCI this time. Not on the face of it, at least. Back in 2006, Dalmiya was seen as a threat and the Pawar camp had gone all out to try and get him out of the CAB.

As things stand, Dalmiya can’t be a threat in the near future. For, in a smart move, which was driven by the need to keep him at bay, Pawar’s successor (lawyer Shashank Manohar) got picked last year itself.

That’s not to say Pawar and his men aren’t keenly following what’s going on in the B.C.Roy Club House and beyond.

From those wanting to hold on to power to those intent on making a comeback, everybody is in overdrive. If only cricket in the state (which has fallen to a new low in the Mukherjee era) received as much attention.

Will things change after the 77th AGM? We’ll have to keep fingers crossed.

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