Anurag Thakur (left) and Arun Jaitley (centre) could emerge as men who could call the shots in Indian cricket, if Narendra Modi comes to power © PTI & AFP
Will the 2014 General Elections impact the game of cricket in India? Sudatta Mukherjee looks at some of the possible realigning of political forces within the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) post the elections.
If Bollywood and Indian cricket has been almost inseparable, then politics and Indian cricket have been Siamese Twins. There is far too much fame, power and money in the game in India for the politicians to stay away. Almost every state association is headed by a political heavyweight. Men like SK Wankhede, NKP Salve, Madhavrao Scindia, Ranbir Singh Mahendra and Sharad Pawar went onto head the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). The ambitious Pawar even went on to head the International Cricket Council (ICC).
There is widespread belief that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will come to power with Narendra Modi likely to take over as the 14th Prime Minister of India. Will BJP’s and Modi coming to power make a difference to the cricket equations? It could. Many of the state cricketing associations affiliated to the BCCI are headed by powerful politicians. The Gujarat Cricket Association (GCA) is no exception; the head being none other than Modi himself.
The biggest cricketing casualty, if Modi emerges as the Prime Minister, could be bilateral ties between India and Pakistan. Modi has been scathing in his attack of the present government in handling Pakistan in all matters. His speeches have left no room for ambiguity what he thinks of the Congress government and Pakistan.
India is a financial powerhouse in cricket. Under N Srinivasan’s autocratic regime, the BCCI has not hesitated to flex its financial muscle and get just about everything its way — rightly or otherwise and umindful of the furore around the world among right-minded people. If there is one area where the BCCI — under Srinivasan or any other person — could find support from a BJP-led government, it is in making the northern neighbours feel the pinch of money and opportunities to play India. Even at an individual level, by continuing to deny Pakistan players the opportunities to rake in big moolah in the Indian Premier League (IPL).
The biggest cricketing casualty, if Modi emerges as the Prime Minister, could be bilateral ties between India and Pakistan. Modi has been scathing in his attack of the present government in handling Pakistan in all matters. His speeches have left no room for ambiguity what he thinks of the Congress government and Pakistan
In 2009, when the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack occurred, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) coalition decided to call of bilateral series between India and Pakistan. It was only as recent as December 2012-January 2013 that Pakistan got the opportunity to tour India. Pakistan is hopeful of touring India again sometime after the general elections, but a lot will depend on the mood and the munificence of a new government that is likely to take over.
Congress losing power at the centre will mean the BCCI losing a key man at the centre in Rajiv Shukla, a Member of Parliament with close access to 10, Janpath. But the BCCI need not worry, as it has adequate representations in all political hues. The man who could call the shots in BCCI in the days ahead could be suave Arun Jaitley, a Modi confidant and touted as the next president of the BCCI.
The BJP also has a seasoned politician in Kirti Azad, a former cricketer. But his relations with Jaitley have been anything but cordial. That would mean someone like Navjot Singh Sidhu — a Jaitely protégé but controversially no contesting the 2014 elections — or Chetan Chauhan, both former India players, could have a bigger role in Indian cricket. But The BJP also has in its ranks Anurag Thakur, an MP and son of Himachal Pradesh’s former Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal. Thakur brings lot more to the table in BCCI and in politics than Azad, Sidhu and Chauhan.
One gets the strong feeling that Jaitley and Thakur could well call the shots in Indian cricket post the elections.
(Sudatta Mukherjee is a reporter with CricketCountry. Other than writing on cricket, she spends penning random thoughts on her blog and produces weekly posts on new food joints at Whopping Weekends. She played Table Tennis for University of Calcutta. When she is not writing, you will catch her at a movie theatre or watching some English serial on her laptop. Her Twitter id is @blackrosegal)