The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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3 votes that derailed a plan

Calcutta, July 31: Three more votes would have carried Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s candidate to victory in last night’s Cricket Association of Bengal elections and Lalu Prasad’s railways had that number.

It is hard to say with certainty who voted for Jagmohan Dalmiya and who for Prasun Mukherjee, the chief minister’s candidate, in the election decided 61-56, but the buzz today was that the railways’ votes went in the winner’s favour.

Had they not, and railways sources said the decision was made the morning before the election, Mukherjee would have won 59-58.

Three railway clubs have votes ' BNR, Eastern Railway Sports Association and Netaji Subhas Institute. “Even four days before the election, the diktat to these clubs was to vote for the police commissioner (Mukherjee),” said a senior railway official.

However, after the railway minister’s meeting with Dalmiya at the BNR guesthouse, a message was received by the railway officials to vote the opposite way.

None of the officials representing the three clubs would speak. “The election is over and we must not comment on it,” said one who cast the vote.

There could be cricket politics or pure politics behind Lalu Prasad’s rumoured decision to cast his lot with Dalmiya, despite the CPM being an ally.

Some believe, though, that there was no request to Lalu Prasad from the chief minister, or the CPM, which as a party had stayed out of the battle.

“Laluji is very close to the CPM leadership,” said a local functionary of Lalu Prasad’s RJD who had accompanied the railway minister during his visit last week to Calcutta.

“If the CPM leadership had actually asked him to ensure that the clubs voted for the chief minister’s candidate, they would most certainly have done so,” the functionary said.

It’s also true that there are things, like going to meet Lalu Prasad with a request to vote in his favour, Dalmiya can do easily but a chief minister cannot. And his candidate, Mukherjee, may not have had access to Lalu Prasad.

A pinch of national cricket politics could also be involved in the way the votes went.

Lalu Prasad is cut up with the Sharad Pawar-ruled cricket board (BCCI) for not recognising the Bihar association headed by him as the true representative of the state.

It is the same grouse that Lalu Prasad had against Dalmiya when he was the BCCI chief, which makes it all the more surprising the reported decision to give the railway votes to the ruling faction in the Bengal cricket association.

A Pawar-constituted three-member committee assessed the rival claims of three associations, one headed by Kirti Azad, the BJP MP, and the third by a police officer, and decided that Bihar needn’t be represented by its own body at all.

The Jharkhand association can very well do the job, it said. Before the bifurcation of Bihar, there was only one association, based in Jamshedpur, which is now the recognised Jharkhand entity.

The committee recommended that the association that existed before the bifurcation would represent both the states. This wouldn’t have pleased Lalu Prasad.

If there are political reasons for Lalu Prasad to vote against Bhattacharjee’s candidate, those are not immediately clear, unless the CPM’s central leadership has rubbed him the wrong way.

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