No deal but if Sourav comes, it’s good: Amit Shah
Union home minister Amit Shah on Monday did not deny that he had met Sourav Ganguly recently but brushed aside suggestions of a “deal” with the former cricket captain with an eye on elections in Bengal, due in the summer of 2021.
The BJP chief, however, made it clear it “would be good” if Sourav joined the party.
“He can meet me. I’ve been associated with cricket for a long time,” the home minister said, asked if he was managing the affairs of Indian cricket too from behind the scenes and about a reported meeting with Sourav.
Shah was responding to questions on the October 23 elections to Indian cricket’s apex body BCCI and on Bengal politics in an interview to India Today TV.
The comments came on a day Sourav and Shah’s son, Jay Shah, filed their nominations for the post of BCCI president and secretary ahead of next week’s elections where they will be elected unopposed.
Shah rejected suggestions of a “deal” with Sourav that the former captain would be projected as the “face” of the BJP in Bengal after he steps down as BCCI president next year for a compulsory cooling-of period.
“There is no such deal. Never had any talk with Sourav (on this). This is a canard,” Shah replied.
When pointed out that the BJP did need a “strong face” in Bengal and that the party had tried to get Sourav on board in the past, Shah denied any such attempt.
“Never have we urged Sourav to come and join the BJP. There have been no such attempts from his side too,” he said.
Shah then went on to underscore that the BJP had won 18 seats from Bengal in this year’s parliamentary elections without projecting a “face” and had even won in other states, such as Uttar Pradesh and Tripura, with the same approach.
Asked if that meant the BJP didn’t need a “face” in Bengal, he said: “Not that we don’t want a face but it isn’t true that we can’t win without a face.”
“No deal with Sourav Ganguly but if he comes then good,” he added.
Every citizen, he said, was welcome to join the “nationalist” BJP.
In Bengal, state BJP chief Dilip Ghosh said his party’s doors were “wide open” for Sourav, who now heads the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB).
“The BJP is keeping its doors wide open for Sourav. All professionally successful people are welcome, to join hands with career politicians to improve Bengal and the nation,” the Midnapore MP said.
“Even former India opener Gautam Gambhir joined the BJP and became an MP…. I have been a huge fan of Sourav’s captaincy,” he added.
Earlier, according to PTI, Sourav said he had not been asked to campaign for the BJP in Bengal. “No, no, nothing of that sort. Nobody told me anything,” the former captain told the news agency.
Sourav, once known for his proximity to stalwarts of the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee-led Left government, rose to helm the CAB with the blessings of Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee.
Several sources in the BJP state unit, however, said that Sourav has been a “close friend and confidant” of Union minister of state for finance Anurag Thakur, a former BCCI chief whom Shah trusts.
A source in the BJP state unit, known for his proximity to party chief Shah, said he had received word from the national leadership that Sourav was likely to join the party after his stint as BCCI chief.
“He has around 10 months ahead of the compulsory cooling-off period of three years. We have concrete information that he will join our party then, just in time for the Assembly elections in Bengal,” the source said.
Additional reporting by our Bengal bureau