Calcutta: Kapil Dev, India’s first captain to win a World Cup, spoke to The Telegraph almost exclusively on politics. The interview, which lasted around 30 minutes, was done over the phone late on Monday.
Q The year 2013 saw sportspersons like Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore and Sourav Ganguly either joining politics or being wooed by political parties. Haven’t you been targeted?
A I have been, for a number of years, but I don’t get into anything unless I’m absolutely sure of my role... Do the parties (only) want to use my face and name? Right now, I don’t know what I’ll do if I join a political party. Having said that, who knows about the future.
Will you identify the parties which have approached you?
That wouldn’t be ethical. Suffice to say I keep getting feelers.
Two World Cup-winning captains — Imran Khan and Arjuna Ranatunga — are into politics...
I wish them well.
Could Imran become Pakistan’s Prime Minister?
The entire fraternity will be happy if Imran gets to that chair, but things are quite different in Pakistan... After all, that country has had military dictatorships for almost half its existence. Imran’s a good speaker and means well, but he has to carry the people with him.
What’s your take on Ranatunga?
I find Ranatunga relaxed, so he must be enjoying his innings as a politician.
Should Sourav take the plunge?
Depends on Sourav... Depends on the time he’ll be able to give to politics... If politicians can enter administration in sport, there’s nothing wrong in sportsmen taking to politics.
Will Sourav make a good politician?
Sourav was an outstanding cricketer, but will he also be outstanding in politics? I don’t know.
Are you a Rightist or a Leftist?
Look, I’m for politicians who work for the good of the country and the good of our people... I’m for politicians who talk less and work more... I’m for policies which benefit the common man.
Has the Aam Aadmi Party’s success in the Delhi elections surprised you?
Shocked, not surprised! Even Arvind Kejriwal must have been shocked.
Did you vote for the Aam Aadmi Party?
I won’t reveal that in an interview.
Your thoughts on Kejriwal, now Delhi’s chief minister...
Kejriwal will be my man if he delivers even 50 per cent of what he has promised. Politicians need to deliver, so let’s see what he does. I’m not for free this and free that or promising rice at Rs 2 per kg, though.
Do you see the Aam Aadmi Party going national in a big way?
It will be interesting if they field candidates outside Delhi in the (2014) general elections... I’m of the view that there shouldn’t be too many parties on the national stage as running a coalition government, for example, could then be an issue. I like the system in the US, where there are the Democrats and the Republicans. That’s it.
Are you, then, in favour of India adopting a Presidential form of government?
It’s not needed now, but India’s growing and, in time, a change may be needed.
Their outlook has to be national... The country must come first.
What if Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi both invited you to their rallies?
(Laughs) I’d attend both of them... I have friends in the BJP and in the Congress.
But you’re your own man...
Absolutely. I count politicians among my friends, but they can’t influence my thinking. My strength is that I have a mind of my own.
Who will be the next Prime Minister?
Modi seems to be flying high, but the Congress is an experienced party... Tough to say, but Modi’s definitely soaring at this stage.
Fine... Would you prefer Modi or Rahul as the next Prime Minister?
It’s not a fair question... Whoever delivers.
You’ve been close to Prime Ministers such as Atal Bihari Vajpayee... Do you have a role model politician?
I have the highest regard for Vajpayee... I have fond memories of interactions with Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi... Indira had a strong personality, while Rajiv was such a lovely person... However, in my view, P.V. Narasimha Rao is the one Prime Minister who didn’t get his due... Look at how he changed the economy, opened it up.
Has Manmohan Singh disappointed you?
I wouldn’t say he disappointed me, for I look for positives in everything... But I’d like my Prime Minister to be speaking more often to the country... Mr Singh is very intelligent and a wonderful person, but he’s 81... I feel politicians should retire at 70... In fact, I’d like to see more politicians in the 40-65 age group. There’s a retirement age in every field, so why not in politics as well?
Have you been following Mamata Banerjee’s performance as Bengal’s chief minister?
Not closely... I don’t know Mamata too well either.
Well, Mamata has to attract investors... Tatas pulling out of the Nano project in Bengal (towards the end of the Left Front regime, after Trinamul’s agitation) was a blow... At one time, Bengal and Calcutta were right at the top where industry was concerned. Mamata has to reclaim that position. I’m not for naare baazi... Deliver, not shout slogans... I’m also dead against the lal jhanda culture... Flaunt the red flag, but to work more, not cease work. The mindset, clearly, has to change.
What’s your message to politicians?
To talk of elections in cricket... Your first India captain, Bishan Singh Bedi, lost by a huge margin in the DDCA...
But credit to Bishan for contesting... He made the effort, just like Dilip (Vengsarkar) did, in 2011, in Mumbai.
Bedi became a victim of the proxy arrangement which rules the DDCA. Your views?
I’m not comfortable with this proxy business and the government should ban voting by proxy in sports organisations. When the parent body, the BCCI, doesn’t allow voting by proxy, how can affiliates permit that? The constitution of the affiliated units needs to be reviewed and there has to be uniformity.
Should bodies such as the DDCA have individuals as members?
Only if the individual has represented India or his state, not otherwise. Membership should be limited to clubs and universities... Family and staff of influential members shouldn’t be the beneficiaries... Surely, that’s not cricket.
While you’re all for more cricketers coming into administration, they fight among themselves, Karnataka being an example... Brijesh Patel versus Anil Kumble and Javagal Srinath...
I find nothing wrong as long as it’s healthy. Running a cricket body is an honorary job, so get into it only if you have the time, not for the sake of becoming an administrator. Khali naam ke liye mat karo.
Lastly... Why did you quickly give up the fight against the Chaudhrys in the Haryana Cricket Association?
Because individuals were controlling the membership and the voting. I’ve told you who all should be members.