Sharad Pawar emerged as the strongest candidate for BCCI’s president post
Mumbai Cricket Associations President Sharad Pawar emerged as the strongest candidate for the BCCI president’s elections. Pawar, who not only received formal backing from N. Srinivasan, the ICC chairman, but it was also understood that Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which is running the Indian government and controls a sizeable number of BCCI votes, could turn its head towards Pawar for long-term political benefit.
However, Pawar’ s biggest obstacle could be his own supporters, a number of whom who are against any alliance with Srinivasan displayed their recent collective hostility. Pawar, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief, who has hardly faced any opposition in his long political and cricket administrative career, prefers negotiation to break a deal away from the spotlight, but this time his supporters’ opposition will test his skill.
On Wednesday night, Pawar met Srinivasan in Nagpur. It is understood that Pawar have briefed his key supporters- Maharashtra, Saurashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Vidarbha and Mumbai – about Srinivasan’s offer. But, a senior member of Pawar’s camp told a cricket specific website that some of the West Zone members made it clear that it was not a wise move.
“Srinivasan promised him support and said they should have an election, but some of us are not in agreement to this and we told Pawar our support wouldn’t be unanimous,” the camp insider said. “Key members of Pawar group had resigned because of the allegations against Srinivasan.”
Surprisingly, one of the key allies of Pawar and longtime associates, Shashank Manohar was not present during the Srinivasan meeting, though he was in the nearby hill station of Mahabaleshwar. Manohar, who once was a trusted ally of Srinivasan, was the BCCI president in the term between Pawar and Srinivasan. But, he has turned into a vocal critic of Srinivasan in the last two years. Pawar will need his persuasive skill and political acumen to get Manohar on his side if he wants to ensure his election as the next BCCI president.
On Friday, Maharashtra Cricket Association president Ajay Shirke met Pawar at the Yeshwant Rao Chavan centre in Mumbai, but he said it was not to discuss the BCCI at all. “There is a book being published to mark Pawar’s 75th birthday celebrations and I am contributing a chapter there. We were there to discuss the book,” Shirke said. “He did not tell us about any deal,” he added.
Shirke and Sanjay Jagdale had quit as BCCI treasurer and secretary, respectively, in 2013, after the IPL corruption scandal erupted. They were protesting against Srinivasan’s refusal to take moral responsibility.
According to a highly placed source, if Pawar contest in the elections with Srinivasan’s backing, he would have only 12 votes, which would not be enough to garner a majority number in the 30 member BCCI. From the West Zone bank, Pawar has assured support from Maharashtra, Saurashtra, Baroda and Mumbai, and from Central Zone he has the backing of Vidarbha and Madhya Pradesh.
One BCCI official said that he wondered why Pawar would be interested in aligning with Srinivasan considering the Tamil Nadu heavyweight just had a handful of confirmed votes on his side. “Why does he need to make a deal with Srinivasan? He [Srinivasan] is doing all this to stay in the news. Even on the eve the last AGM in Chennai he told his supporters he had the majority of the votes and in the end how much did he get – just 13 and lost the critical vote of the secretary. Between then and now his stock has improved? It is an effort to remain in the fray and not get marginalised. And Pawar is too seasoned a politician to not understand this.”
Such talk does not, however, dissuade the Srinivasan camp, which is confident that Pawar will get nominated for the elections, a date for which will need to be announced at the BCCI’s special general body meeting, scheduled soon. “At this time, BCCI needs an experienced person like Sharad Pawar to handle various difficult situations,” a Srinivasan camp official said.
However, the X-factor will be Rajiv Shukla, the IPL chairman, who belongs to the opposition Congress party, but shares a cordial relationship with BJP politicians, and has good rapport with BCCI secretary Anurag Thakur. Arun Jaitley, the Finance minister, who is a former Delhi District Cricket Associations (DDCA) president, but still hold strong command over the BCCI a DDCA matter will play a crucial role in electing President.