Will Ganguly Join BJP? Let’s Look At Past Records for an Answer
With evident BJP involvement in the BCCI elections, rumours are rife that Ganguly might join the saffron party.
“So, does this mean Dada will be BJP’s star campaigner in the 2021 West Bengal elections?”
While the politically disengaged in Bengal expressed jubilation over Sourav Ganguly taking on the mantle of BCCI President, those a little more politically informed kept themselves from an extravagant display of excitement.
Reports of Ganguly’s nomination for the post were accompanied by two key announcements – Jay Shah, son of Home Minister Amit Shah as BCCI Secretary, and Arun Dhumal, brother of MoS Finance Anurag Thakur as the treasurer.
BJP influence in the selection of the BCCI top-post is all but an open secret. Some, therefore, are speculating if Ganguly will solve one problem the party is having in the state- that of a credible Chief Ministerial face.
But is Ganguly’s acceptance of the post a possible sign of him joining the BJP? Well, not really, if his past record is anything to go by.
‘Like Buddha Babu’s Son’
Ganguly’s iconic status in Bengal meant he has always been eyed by political parties. In the early 2000s, his closeness to then Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya was for all to see.
“Buddha Babu considered him like a son,” said a senior sports journalist in Kolkata.
So much so that the Chief Minister himself was a part of protests when the former skipper was dropped from the Indian Cricket Team in 2005.
It is for Buddha Babu that Ganguly got as close to politics as he could. In 2006, he, in a bid for Buddha, lobbied against his long-time mentor Jagmohan Dalmiya for the presidential election to the Cricket Association of Bengal.
In fact, in what was considered a dramatic turn of events at the time, Ganguly’s brother, Snehasis, flaunted an email sent to him by the former in which he extended support to Dalmiya’s rival at the time, former Kolkata Police Chief Prasun Mukherjee.
The email was released on the same day that Dalmiya filed his nomination for CAB President.
In the email, it seemed like Ganguly was accusing Dalmiya of leaking an email sent by then Team India Coach Greg Chappel to then BCCI President Ranbir Singh Mahendra where Chappel complained to Mahendra about Ganguly’s form temperament.
Ganguly wrote in the mail,
“People who leak email and sacrifice players’ careers should be heavily punished. There are people in the CAB toying with the players’ careers to suit them. They should not be allowed to go scot-free as it takes years of hard work to reach a certain level in sports. Am happy that the Chief Minister and the people concerned are addressing the issue and working towards the right path.”
Dalmiya won that election and unlike in the cricket field, Ganguly’s gamble backfired. He later ‘clarified’ that Dalmiya did not leak the Chappel email.
Subsequently, Ganguly was seen at a lot of events organised by the Left government. In 2008, he even appealed to Ratan Tata to open the Nano factory in Singur. He was even accused of seeking favours from the government at the time in the form of land allocation for a school. In 2011, the Supreme Court quashed the allotment of the 63 cottahs of land.
When Didi Batted for Dada
At the same time, Ganguly did not shy away from publicly meeting with now Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, whose party, Trinamool Congress, was then on an upward surge in the state, despite the Trinamool routinely registering complaints against Ganguly’s appearances in Left events.
Before the 2011 state elections, the Trinamool registered its protest against The Election Commission's (EC) decision to select Ganguly for an election promo as an ambassador for the state. The TMC alleged that Ganguly was a part of the CPI(M) and would campaign for them. The EC went ahead with the move, but only after a written assurance from Ganguly that he would not campaign for any political party.
However, Ganguly tided over the change in political dispensation which happened in 2011 after the Trinamool decisively crushed the Left Front in the election. In 2013, the state government conferred him with a lifetime achievement award and also allotted two acres of land to him for a school and cricket academy. The same was inaugurated by Mamata Banerjee herself.
The biggest example of Ganguly’s proximity to TMC, though, is his selection as President of the Cricket Association of Bengal in 2015, after the demise of Dalmiya. Sources say that Mamata overtook the selection process and was single-handedly responsible for putting Ganguly in the chair, surpassing many seniors in the CAB and even some senior Trinamool leaders who were in the reckoning.
In a departure from procedure, the announcement of Ganguly taking over the CAB was made by the Chief Minister herself at the State Secretariat. She, however, said that the decision was “taken by the CAB members” and she was “just making the announcement”.
The CAB is an autonomous body.
Brush With BJP
Around the same time, right before the West Bengal state elections of 2016, rumours were rife that Ganguly was looking to join the BJP. There were reports that the party had approached Ganguly and were in serious talks with him.
Speaking to The Indian Express around the time, Ganguly said that he did receive an offer from the BJP but was not keen on contesting elections which is why he refused.
The same report said that BJP had also made an offer to Ganguly before the 2014 General elections.
It was also reported that Ganguly was approached by both the TMC and the Congress to contest elections that year, but he refused them as well.
With a clear BJP involvement in the present BCCI elections, rumours of Ganguly joining the BJP have erupted once again, but if his past records are anything to go by, this might just be another instance of Ganguly negotiating political currents.
But as they say in both sports and politics – never say never.
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