| Prasun Mukherjee and Sourav Ganguly’s brother Snehasish in Calcutta on Tuesday. Picture by Santosh Ghosh
Calcutta, June 20: The chief minister-initiated campaign to win the Cricket Association of Bengal president’s post was kicked off today at a meeting of sportspersons in the presence of mayor Bikash Bhattacharya.
Police commissioner Prasun Mukherjee, who is the candidate for the post that Jagmohan Dalmiya has held for 14 years, linked his bid for the position to Sourav Ganguly and the “injustice” done to him.
“We need a change for the better in the CAB. I think justice should be done to Sourav Ganguly and we can’t just sit and watch. We have to raise our voice,” he said.
There was enough indication that the Mukherjee camp was trying to get Sourav involved. Former Ranji Trophy-winning captain Sambaran Banerjee enacted high drama by going up to the stage and claiming: “A couple of minutes back Snehasish Ganguly has received an SMS from his brother Sourav conveying that he is with us.”
Later, Snehasish, who was present at the gathering at Aryan Club, denied he received any such SMS. “He did send me an SMS, but that had nothing like what was said. However, I am sure that he would express his views in a couple of days.”
With the chief minister saying yesterday he expected “Sourav to take responsibility”, it’s not hard to anticipate what the former India captain’s views might be. Close to Dalmiya for years, the time might have arrived for him to back a different horse, particularly given the fact that the CAB president’s relations with the Board of Control for Cricket in India are bitter.
There is a view that because of this Sourav has been dropped from the team.
Dalmiya has been incommunicado through the day. Sports minister Subhas Chakraborty, deputed by the chief minister to persuade Dalmiya to step aside, was not in town and no meeting between the two was held today.
Dalmiya said yesterday he would first like to hear what Chakraborty has to say. In any case, the election process hasn’t started yet, so he’s is under no compulsion to declare his candidature or otherwise.
Going by the strength of either side, it’s difficult to see how Dalmiya can lose if he decides to contest. Among CAB affiliates the mood has turned hostile towards the government after the chief minister asking Dalmiya not to contest.
There were rumours that the district magistrates would be asked by the government at attend the annual general meeting, expected in July, and vote for the police commissioner. Traditionally, only the district secretary/cricket secretary of the district votes.
Unprecedented though it will be if the DMs, who are ornamental heads of district associations, did do that, 18 of them won’t count for much in 121 votes.
Both camps have sought former BCCI and CAB president B.N. Dutt’s blessings. Dutt is recovering from heart surgery and is unavailable for comment. Family sources said: “He’s most harassed and most embarrassed.”
The Aryan Club meeting was attended by former footballers Shyam Thapa, Subhas Bhowmick and Surojit Sengupta, former Olympian and hockey captain Gurbux Singh and grandmaster Dibyendu Barua.
All the sportspersons sought the removal of Dalmiya so that a new regime can rebuild relations with the BCCI to pave Sourav’s way back into the team. This belief itself may be flawed but it is a potent weapon to use in an election campaign, given its emotional pull.
Snehasish said: “The ruling group of the CAB has a sour relation with the BCCI and I think if we come to power, the relationship will improve. Not only Sourav, but other cricketers from the state will also get a fair deal.”
The mayor said: “I feel that justice should be done. The way Sourav was removed from the team the CAB did nothing for him.”
The organisers of the programme read out a letter of support from Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee who called for a change in CAB and supported the police commissioner.