When will Sourav Ganguly enter politics? And if he does, for whom will he hold his bat? It goes without saying that Ganguly is one of Bengal’s most popular icons and arguably the most powerful man in cricket – India’s religion number 1.
It has been said that all major political parties have tried to rope him in at some point or the other. But Ganguly has always held his cards close to his chest. He has been close to everyone while committing to no one – and has probably only gained from his stand.
Days of Red and 'Attack' on Dalmiya
During the Left regime in West Bengal, Ganguly was said to be very close to CPI(M) MLA and Urban Development and Municipal Affairs Minister Ashok Bhattacharya, a firebrand leader from north Bengal.
Even very recently, Bhattacharya went to visit Ganguly in the hospital when the latter had to undergo angioplasty and it was Bhattacharya who came out to claim that Ganguly is being pressured to join politics, as India Today had reported.
Ganguly was also close to former chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya.
The cricketing fraternity has always seen Jagmohan Dalmiya, erstwhile president of the International Cricket Council (ICC), Board of Control for Cricket in India and (BCCI), and the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB), as Ganguly’s mentor.
However, as Dalmiya went against Buddhadeb Bhattacharya (the CM was supporting Kolkata Police Commissioner Prasun Mukherjee for the post) to file his nomination for the post of the CAB president in 2006, Ganguly took a stand against him.
He came out to allege that his former mentor had leaked a mail that led to the cricketer’s sacking from the Indian team during the Greg Chappell era.
Hindustan Times had quoted Ganguly, as he came out to slam Dalmiya:
"There are people in CAB who are playing with players' careers. They should not be left scot free as players need years to reach a certain level."
The 'Greener' Grass of CAB
Cut to Dalmiya’s death in 2015. Ganguly quickly came to the fore and got nominated for the post of CAB president.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee herself backed him and Dalmiya’s son Abhishek was to be his deputy. Everyone knew Ganguly would be a great fit for CAB, which was in a bad state. However, there was no election for the post of president. Was Ganguly getting close to the TMC now?
BCCI and the Saffron Flag
The stage changed dramatically in 2019. BCCI needed a new president and the controversial former chief, Narayanaswamy Srinivasan, was supporting Brijesh Patel for the role.
In fact, Business Standard had already published the headline 'Brijesh Patel set to become BCCI president.'
At the eleventh hour, however, everything changed. Ganguly filed his nomination for the presidency and got elected to the role. Hindustan Times reported that it was Anurag Thakur who had tilted the scales heavily in favour of Ganguly.
But why did erstwhile BCCI president Thakur suddenly come out in support of Ganguly? Was there some ‘order’ from someone powerful?
In an opinion piece for NDTV, Swati Chaturvedi had claimed that Home Minister Amit Shah had held a meeting with Ganguly and it was Assam leader Himanta Biswa Sarma who made calls at the HM’s request, to ensure that all candidates bowed out of the BCCI election. Shah’s son Jay Shah subsequently became the BCCI secretary.
Most in the cricket fraternity were happy. Ganguly had taken over the captaincy in tumultuous times and had steadied a rocking ship. It needed someone like him to give BCCI and Indian cricket, in general, some stability.
Through cricket and an extraordinary television career (he still hosts Bengal’s most popular reality quiz show Dadagiri), Ganguly has taken himself to unassailable heights. While eyebrows were being raised, the home minister came out to say there was no deal made with Ganguly, as India Today states.
However, the NDTV oped also claimed how it might soon be a ‘Dada vs Didi’ battle in West Bengal – a fight between Mamata and Ganguly himself.
The BJP had also wanted Ganguly to be their ace in the Bengal legislative Assembly election in 2021.
However, the delectable electoral fight, even if there were chances, could not take place. Unfortunately, Ganguly had a sudden cardiac arrest and had to undergo an emergency angioplasty.
As BCCI chief, Ganguly has had some controversial moments already. He has 'clipped' some wings, and has brought the core of his team – people like Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman – at the centre of Indian cricket. Maybe political bigwigs didn’t understand him.
Ganguly probably never wanted the electoral battle. What if he has chosen some other field of power – cricket? That way, his next stop is ICC where he already holds a post. Would the BCCI chief need anyone’s help to rule it?