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Seen the most fascinating political Test match: Bedi

‘Don’t know how, but the BCCI does need a shake-up’
Bishan Singh Bedi and Amarinder Singh during a recent media conference, in Amritsar

Calcutta: Former India captain Bishan Singh Bedi, who did his bit for Patiala royal Amarinder Singh of the Congress, in Amritsar, spoke to The Telegraph (from New Delhi) on Saturday evening.

Excerpts...

QYou campaigned for Amarinder, who won from Amritsar on a Congress ticket, thrashing key BJP strategist Arun Jaitley by over a lakh of votes...

A Randhir Singh (former secretary general of the IOA) and I did go to Amritsar for a few days and we were accompanied by some Delhi-based cricketers. I didn’t join any rally by Amarinder, but did speak to the media and meet voters informally.

Were you invited by Amarinder or did you go on your own?

I was invited and I went as a sportsman.

In effect, then, it turned out to be a continuation of the ‘war’ within the proxy-dominated Delhi and District Cricket Association, didn’t it?

(Laughs) I leave it to your good judgement... I went to support one candidate, not to run down another aspirant. Cricket has taught me to be civilised.

What did you, in particular, tell the voters of Amritsar?

I wanted them to know who is the real son of the soil.

You can, then, take some credit for helping Amarinder defeat Jaitley?

I don’t see it as such a big deal. But, yes, fact is that the better person won.

Be honest... Did you expect Amarinder to win...

Look, Amarinder is a former chief minister of Punjab and knows the state inside out. He ran a hard campaign and got rewarded.

Did Jaitley and you cross paths in Amritsar?

No.

Would the BJP have retained Amritsar had Navjot Singh Sidhu again been given a ticket?

It’s an interesting question. During my interactions with the locals there, I did note that they saw Sidhu as one of their own. They would’ve been happy to again have him as a candidate. A sense of belonging matters.

There was talk that the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) wanted you to contest as its candidate...

Well, there was some talk... AAP wanted me to fight from Amritsar, but nothing got finalised. In any case, politics isn’t my cup of tea.

[AAP eventually fielded Dr Daljit Singh, who polled over 80,000 votes.]

What’s your take on the BJP’s phenomenal showing in the general election?

To get 282 seats on its own is a tremendous mandate and, now, the BJP can’t offer excuses. It will have to deliver, plain and simple.

Did the numbers, both for the BJP and the Congress, take you by surprise?

At my age (67), nothing surprises. I neither get shocked, nor do I get surprised.

Your thoughts on Narendra Modi, our next Prime Minister...

I’d like to wait and see how Modi performs... What’s amazing is that he put in such a physical effort, campaigning across the country. Indeed, the energy he showed seemed almost unreal. One has to admire him for travelling to just about every nook and corner of India. Credit to his team as well.

What would best sum up Modi?

Oh, it wouldn’t be fair for me to sum up somebody I hardly know. I don’t wish to go by impressions.

In recent times, outgoing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh got brickbats in plenty. Will subsequent generations judge him more kindly?

I think so, yes. We have to remember that politics was never Singh’s strength... He’s a technocrat, with a good feel of economic issues.

But the economy took a hit in his second innings...

Why forget what Singh did between 2004-09?

What’s your message for the Congress, which has been decimated?

It’s not for me to give anybody in politics a message... Look, when I don’t offer suggestions to the Indian cricket team, why should I even think of saying something to the Congress?

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra comes across as more charismatic than her brother, Rahul...

That’s the perception... I agree Priyanka is a very charismatic lady. However, beyond that, I wouldn’t like to comment.

Politically, where do you stand?

I have no leanings.

None at all?

No leanings.

The No.1 lesson from the general election...

That you can’t take the Indian voter for a ride. Today, the electorate is mature and can see through things. The Indian voter has turned intelligent.

Did the nine-phase exercise leave you fascinated?

(Laughs) We’ve just seen the most fascinating political Test match, certainly more absorbing than the wretched IPL!

Could a change at the Centre affect the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI)?

Don’t know how, but the BCCI does need a shake-up... If there can be a massive upheaval in New Delhi, then why not in the BCCI?

Finally, are you happy that Justice (retd) Mukul Mudgal and his panel will probe 13 individuals, including Narayanswamy Srinivasan?

The Supreme Court has taken the best way forward... It has given Justice Mudgal all the powers to get to the bottom of it all. He’s a genuine, magnificent person and has nothing but the good of Indian cricket at heart. I’m delighted with Friday’s development.