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Since 1st March, 1999
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Buddha bristles, Basu doesn’t care

Calcutta, July 21: The anger was palpable as the first question was put to him.

“Do you know that Jagmohan Dalmiya has filed his nomination papers for CAB elections'”

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee paused a moment, then barked: “So, what can I do about it'”

“But didn’t you ask him not to contest'” came the second question.

“Don’t ask me ridicul- ous questions,” snapped Bhattacharjee. With these words, he left.

Minutes before, the chief minister, who had publicly stated that he did not want Dalmiya in the CAB president’s chair, had peeped out of his room at Writers’ Buildings. Seeing the large media contingent, he had quickly stepped back, uncomfortable about being confronted with the Dalmiya issue.

If Dalmiya wins the elections, of which there is every possibility, it would be a further loss of face for him.

Bhattacharjee’s predecessor, Jyoti Basu, also made his position clear. Known to be close to Dalmiya, he had not taken kindly to city police chief Prasun Mukherjee’s decision to contest the polls.

“There was no need for the state government’s intervention (in the affairs of the CAB) during the last 30 years. Now, if the contest is inevitable, let it happen. I have lost all interest in these affairs,” Basu said this evening.

The former chief minister skipped the CPM’s state secretariat meeting today, but sources said Dalmiya’s nomination was discussed on the sidelines. Some leaders were worried about the fallout on the chief minister’s image if he returns as CAB president.

Transport minister Subhas Chakraborty, who is also known to be close to Dalmiya and who had been assigned the responsibility of persuading him not to contest, said he had “failed in his task”.

“I had given my word to the chief minister that I would convince Dalmiya not to contest. I tried my best, but I failed,” Chakraborty said.

“I spoke to Dalmiya twice and assured him all cooperation. He said he would see, but he did not keep his word. Now that he has put in his papers, nothing can be done. It’s his democratic right.”

The sports minister has maintained that the decision to dissuade Dalmiya was not the government’s, but only the chief minister’s.

Urban development minister Ashok Bhattacharya, who is perhaps the lone voice in the cabinet supporting the chief minister, holds that Dalmiya has to leave CAB “for the sake of Bengal cricket”.

Asked how Dalmiya filed his papers despite the chief minister’s objection, Bhattacharya said: “Ask Subhas Chakraborty.”

The minister said he supported Sourav’s demand, made in the email he is purported to have sent, for Dalmiya’s ouster.

“I agree with Sourav that Dalmiya should be punished for what he has done to Bengal cricket,” said Bhattacharya.

The minister has often blamed the CAB boss for Sourav being dropped from the national squad as well as for the state of Eden Gardens.

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