The fortune of Sourav Ganguly as the president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) was airborne in a chartered flight from LGBI Airport in Guwahati. The flight carried the future of a billionaire cricket association and one Indian state.
While the name of Brijesh Patel was doing rounds as the president, a dramatic episode that followed in an informal dinner on Oct 13, 2019, at a five-star hotel in Mumbai, took the silver screen towards Ganguly.
The informal dinner hosted by the former president of BCCI N Srinivasan was about lobbying state units towards electing Brijesh Patel as the president but the stage took centre-off. By midnight, it was unanimously decided that Ganguly would be the next president of the cricket association.
Media reports say that Ganguly was not aware of his name as the president. He told this to the media cavalcade present at the hotel just before dinner.
But that was just to show before the media. It was all staged!
Ganguly had met Amit Shah in New Delhi a day before the dinner night. The meeting agenda remains unknown to us but political speculations link it to either to BCCI or Bengal or, both.
Cricket and politics?
It is not going to be wrong if we say cricket is politicized. The fans refrain from linking the gentlemen game with politics. But is it saffronized too?
A series of discussions between Amit Shah, Anurag Thakur, and some top BJP leaders decided Ganguly as the president.
While our sources claim that even Himanta Biswa Sarma was a part of it. Not much information is out in media on Sarma’s role. Insiders say that Shah appointed him to negotiate with everyone, “avoid contest” for the post and unanimously fix Dada (Ganguly’s nickname) as the president.
All for 2021 West Bengal elections. Sources at the BJP have told us that the party is going to project Ganguly as the chief ministerial candidate. “Crowning the Bengal Tiger before the stages set in for Bengal was important,” said a source.
And for BJP, it was an important step. To win the heart of the people in Bengal, the way carved from BCCI would do wonders for them.
And on the day of dinner night, Anurag Thakur received a call. Soon after, for around 30-minutes, Thakur, Srinivasan, Jay Shah, and Sarma were in a closed-door huddle. Reportedly, they all were in a call with an influential union cabinet minister. Was it Amit Shah on the other side?
Shah’s ace troubleshooter to rescue
Very few know why Sarma was present in the dinner. Known as the best man of Shah, he was sent in a short notice from Guwahati to set the ball rolling towards Ganguly.
Acknowledged as a negotiator par-excellence and ace troubleshooter, Sarma was an obvious choice for Shah. Who would know cracking better political deals than Sarma?
While Thakur was picked to oversee the entire process, Sarma played a big role in keeping the 2021 Bengal polls in mind.
Interestingly, three days before the “informal” dinner, on October 10, Thakur visited Guwahati. And, he along with Sarma met representatives of seven out the eight Northeast states to garner support to Ganguly.
Sources even told us that Sarma, Thakur, former Saurashtra cricket association secretary Niranjan Shah and Rajeev Shukla met Amit Shah in a joint meeting, few days before the dinner night. The agenda was to unanimously elect Ganguly as the president.
The BJP sailed the ship in the entire Northeast post-2016. All credits to Sarma. And as far as West Bengal is concerned, it has always been a top priority for them. And for BJP, Sarma was a perfect choice to negotiate. He is a man who knows politics in the East in-and-out.
Dada still denies being the BJP’s CM face ahead of 2021 Bengal polls but sources at the BJP told us the opposite. BJP is eyeing for a Dada vs Didi electoral fight in the state.
And for someone in Bengal, Dada is a hero, a Bengal Tiger, and a Maharaj. Known to be the ‘God of offside’, Ganguly always played the ball on the front foot, late with many cuts. For BJP, this would make a perfect deal.
To base the speculations, we have to wait for the Bengal polls. But for Sarma, this is an achievement. As a strategist and a negotiator, he wrote his name in BCCI too!