The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Subhas silent, game goes on

Calcutta, Jan. 14: Subhas Chakraborty maintains a meaningful silence and his party says it is in the dark.

As the Maidan game began to play itself out behind the scenes, the undeclared “intent” of the Bengal sports minister to run for president of the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) is increasingly being seen as a “pressure tactic” to get police commissioner Prasun Mukherjee to reconsider his candidature.

Sources said Chakraborty, who usually does not miss an opportunity to speak out, could be waiting in silence for the CPM to iterate its stated position that the party’s ministers should not dabble in cricket politics.

In the event of such a clarification, Chakraborty, who is close to the Jagmohan Dalmiya camp, can claim that the police chief, too, cannot expect the patronage of chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. Dalmiya’s resignation as CAB president after his expulsion from the BCCI has necessitated the February 1 election.

In line with the party policy, Bhattacharjee has so far desisted from an active intervention in the CAB election. But last year’s high-voltage contest, which Mukherjee lost to Dalmiya despite enjoying the chief minister’s support, has ensured that he will always be perceived as Bhattacharjee’s candidate.

But Chakraborty’s supporters feel that a public reaffirmation of the hands-off policy — which they hope to squeeze out of the CPM by raising the pitch around the sports minister’s “possible” candidature — could strengthen the Dalmiya camp.

The sources pointed out that Chakraborty need not necessarily contest. If Mukherjee withdraws, a “consensus candidate” could be found in B.N. Dutt, the grand old man of the Maidan.

That would not hurt the Dalmiya group, whose primary objective is to keep Mukherjee away.

PWD minister and RSP leader Kshiti Goswami has also expressed willingness to be the “consensus candidate”.

So far, Chakraborty has played his cards with caution, a trait not in evidence when he fights his own battles. “Unconfirmed” reports of his likely candidature began doing the rounds after he left town. Chakraborty is not expected to be back before next Sunday, which means he can afford to let the pot boil for some time.

Mukherjee, who attended an event today with Sourav Ganguly — who got sucked into the last round through an email — said: “I believe this is all but a rumour.”

The CPM said it is unaware of any move by Chakraborty to contest. “I am not aware of any such thing. Chakraborty is now in Pune and I shall talk to him when he returns,” CPM state secretary Biman Bose said.

A close aide of Jyoti Basu — Chakraborty considers the veteran his mentor — said the former chief minister has not been told of any plan to contest the CAB poll.

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