The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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In an ideal world, sports and politics should be kept separate. But in India, this is emphatically not the case. The government is a major player in matters relating to sports, in certain cases the critical player. It provides funds, employment and other kinds of support to sportsmen and sports bodies. Very few have objected to this state of affairs. Thus it is difficult to comprehend the righteous cry that has gone up against Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's sponsorship of Mr Prasun Mukherjee, the police commissioner of Calcutta, as a candidate for the post of president of the Cricket Association of Bengal. This is not the first time that a senior government servant will be involved in heading a sports association. It has happened before in West Bengal and in other parts of India. There is some irony in the fact that Mr Banerjee will be opposing Mr Jagmohan Dalmiya, the man most responsible for bringing politics and politicians in a very critical way into the inner workings of cricket administration. He did this because at that point of time the support of politicians and the use of political machinations suited Mr Dalmiya's interests and ambition. He is now hoist with his own petard. He should be the last one to complain. Those who are trying to claim the high moral ground by attacking Mr Bhattacharjee for bringing politics into sports should perhaps reflect on their double standards.

There is no denying, of course, that Mr Bhattacharjee's overt involvement in CAB politics has given the matter an unsavoury turn. This could have been avoided had Mr Dalmiya decided not to contest. He has been the president of CAB longer than public memory serves. He has claimed the CAB and the Board of Control for Cricket in India as his own bailiwick. He has lost control of the BCCI and now he refuses to give up the CAB without a sordid battle. On his part, the chief minister could have avoided announcing his own stakes in the election of the CAB president. But given the fact that the CAB has many reasons to be dependent on government support, Mr Bhattacharjee has good grounds to directly control the CAB through his personal nominee. This may not be the best possible solution and certainly not one that fits the dreams of an ideal world. But it is arguably a better situation than allowing an individual to treat the CAB as his personal fiefdom.

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