| Dungarpur. Picture by Pradip Sanyal
Calcutta, Sept. 27: Islamabad has been promising a red carpet welcome for Team India but, just the other day, the Pakistan High Commission denied former Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) president Raj Singh Dungarpur a visa to visit Karachi.
According to Raj Singh, the New Delhi-located high commission rejected his application on the grounds that he is now a politician and not a cricket administrator.
The trip was to have been in connection with the launch in Pakistan of a cricket book written by a Dubai-based NRI, who is on excellent terms with many in the fraternity.
Raj Singh, it may be recalled, joined the BJP at a well-attended rally in Udaipur on September 7. Present, among others, were party chief M. Venkaiah Naidu and a clutch of Union ministers. Raj Singh, of course, continues as the Cricket Club of India (CCI) president.
“I didn’t deal with the high commission myself, but routed my application through the BCCI’s travel agents (Trade Wings)…. When an update was sought, as I was to reach Karachi on September 23, the firm’s representative was told I wouldn’t get a visa because I was into politics,” Raj Singh told The Telegraph this afternoon.
In the city for the BCCI’s annual general meeting, he added: “I’m disappointed and saddened that the high commission chose to disregard my involvement of many decades with cricket…. It’s a pity that a few days in politics took precedence…. I agree the wrong signal goes out but I’ll still say that Indo-Pak exchanges must resume at the Test (and ODI) level.”
There’s been a complete stop after Pakistan’s visits to India in early 1999.
Significantly, Raj Singh was the manager during India’s 1984-85 tour of Pakistan and, more recently, was in that country as an International Cricket Council (ICC) delegate.
In fact, last week, he went out of his way to ensure Pakistan Cricket Board chief executive Rameez Raja was comfortable during his stay at the CCI. Rameez was in Mumbai for the (ICC’s) Cricket Committee-Management meeting.
“Look, my personal equation with Pakistani friends won’t change…. Not because some official has denied me a visa…. Actually, I also wanted to utilise that Karachi trip to trace Mohammed Nissar’s relatives — idea being to invite them for the CCI’s October 19 function.
“Now, I’ve requested the ICC president (Pakistan’s Ehsan Mani) to help out… I hope the relatives won’t have a problem getting their visas from the Indian High Commission,” Raj Singh pointed out.
October 19 is when the CCI will honour all India cricketers who either took five or more wickets in an innings or scored a hundred at Lord’s. The legendary Nissar bagged five for 93 in the very first Test there (1932).
Though Pakistan regards Raj Singh as a politician, he has no (immediate) plans of fighting an election. “I’m a team man and, if the party decides I must contest, I will. However, I haven’t joined the BJP to stake a claim for any seat… I’ve done so because I believe in its philosophy and have huge admiration for (Prime Minister) Atal Bihari Vajpayee…,” is how he put it.
Incidentally, Raj Singh is due to meet Vasundhara Raje Scindia, the BJP’s Rajasthan unit chief, in a few days.