| Pawar: New player
Sept. 20: Election to the country's top cricket administrator's post has become a completely political battle with central minister Sharad Pawar confirming he would be a contestant.
So far it was known that former law minister and BJP leader Arun Jaitley and Ranbir Singh, former Haryana chief minister Bansi Lal's son, would be the candidates for the position of president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India.
Pawar, the agriculture minister, said today in the event of an election ' and not a consensus ' he was prepared to contest. 'I would be going to Calcutta on September 29 (the day of the election),' he said.
Head of the powerful Mumbai Cricket Association, he, however, preferred a consensus.
It does not seem as if the onerous duty of fighting a tight electoral battle in home state Maharashtra next month is an impediment to Pawar's cricketing ambition.
Pawar is a late entrant into the battle, but he explained it away, saying he was under pressure from friends and well-wishers to take up greater responsibilities in cricket administration. He added that he has had an abiding interest in cricket and other sports bodies.
It is not clear who the friends and well-wishers are but the presence of Jaitley may not be the only reason for Pawar to step in. In fact, it is not clear if it is a reason at all.
Politics should be kept out of sports, Pawar said. 'Jaitley and I keep our political shoes outside the sports field.'
All that Jaitley would say about Pawar's move is: 'I will not speak my mind.'
Some observers see the hands of old enemies of outgoing BCCI president Jagmohan Dalmiya to have egged Pawar on. But there are others who say the idea is to keep Jaitley out.
Most agree that in a contest, Pawar's chances of victory are close to certain. 'The majority of state associations have asked me to take over the responsibility of BCCI president,' Pawar said.
The claim may be slightly exaggerated but the Pawar camp is already believed to have the support of at least a dozen of the 31 votes that will elect the president.
Dalmiya is stepping down after a long reign as Indian cricket's czar, but will stay on as patron-in-chief of the BCCI, a decision taken in Chennai recently. In that position, he can continue to wield the influence he has so far, provided he has a pliable president running the board.
Given his stature, Pawar is unlikely to be that 'yes' man. It is not impossible, though, that they could reach some sort of understanding.
In mounting his challenge, Pawar will do what the late Madhavrao Scindia had done in the nineties. It's north zone's turn this time to have its man in the top post but Pawar is from the west zone. Scindia, a central zone member, had faced a similar situation as in 1990, too, it was the north zone's turn. But he managed to become a candidate from the north zone and held the president's post from 1990 to 1993.
Friend Farooq Abdullah is likely to provide Pawar the north zone launch pad from the Jammu and Kashmir unit. I.S. Bindra, Dalmiya's old foe, could also make the opportunity Pawar needs available in Punjab.