Calcutta, Nov. 29: Jagmohan Dalmiya has paid for spurning Sharad Pawar’s hand of friendship, extended at a one-on-one some months ago.
The Union agriculture minister had said he would support Ranbir Singh Mahendra for a second year as Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) president.
As a quid pro quo, though, Pawar sought an undertaking that Dalmiya ' the most influential in Indian cricket for a dozen years ' would unconditionally support his bid for the presidency in 2006-07.
If the gentleman who helped arrange that meeting is to be believed, Dalmiya indicated he was game, but then went quiet.
Pawar felt insulted twice over ' last year, Dalmiya’s casting vote denied him the most coveted sports administrator’s chair ' and took guard afresh.
Moving on two fronts, Pawar ensured he would get the votes of those units influenced by the Congress. He also got backers like former president Inderjit Singh Bindra and Shashank Manohar to stealthily increase his support within.
Today, that bore fruit when Pawar thrashed the Dalmiya-supported Mahendra 20-11.
In fact, at the reconvened AGM, Pawar’s panel ' Niranjan Shah (secretary), Mohinder Pandove (joint secretary) and N. Srinivasan (treasurer) ' swept through, albeit with a reduced margin.
All three won 18-13, confirming a report in The Telegraph that Dalmiya didn’t have more than 13 sure votes.
Pawar not only pocketed the two votes (Andhra being one) seen as floating till last night, but got two from the Dalmiya group to vote exclusively for him.
The losers believe Gujarat may have cross-voted. For political reasons, given that it’s headed by Congressman Narhari Amin.
Another suspect is a unit from East, which could have broken ranks like Assam.
That Assam would vote for Pawar was apparent in the lead-up. Confirmation came when a beaming association president Goutam Roy, a minister in the Tarun Gogoi government, entered camera frames as Pawar came out victorious.
Roy was to have been rewarded by being made vice-president from East, displacing Rajeev Shukla. Eventually, Dalmiya man K.P. Kajaria returned to the post he held not many years ago.
Shukla, who became vice-president just last year, didn’t get Dalmiya’s nod as he probably didn’t take too kindly to the MP’s perceived closeness to Pawar.
Barring Kajaria, the remaining vice-presidents are all Pawar’s men: Lalit Modi (North), Dayanand Narvekar (South), Chirayu Amin (West) and Manohar (Central).
In a turnaround, Supreme Court-appointed observer T.S. Krishnamurthy allowed those disputing the status of some units to vote, but the five ballots (including two from Bihar) were sealed. Given the victory margins and that all votes couldn’t have gone to either Pawar or Mahendra, it was a meaningless exercise.
Whatever, the sealed ballots will be placed before the Supreme Court on December 12, when the observer places his report there.
While promising cooperation, Dalmiya still took a swipe at Pawar and the Congress: “There’s no problem if a politician fights'. But, if the politician is in power, it’s better to nationalise associations instead of interference from the ruling party'.”
Pawar responded that he’d been in both politics and in sporting bodies for “40 years”. Also, that the BCCI had already seen presidents from the political arena.
“My political ideology doesn’t enter any sporting association that I get associated with,” he added.
Speaking exclusively, Pawar insisted last year’s experience hadn’t particularly upset him. “The elections, you see, hadn’t been fair'.”