Lobbying in full swing before BCCI elections

Published: Tuesday, September 28, 2004, 23:53 [IST]
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Kolkata:Suspense, high drama and intense behind the scenes lobbying seem to be the key ingredients as political heavyweight Sharad Pawar is expected to take on incumbent Jagmohan Dalmiya's nominee Ranbir Singh Mahendra in elections to the post of president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) on Wednesday.

A five star hotel in South Kolkata has emerged as the centre of activity with both camps pitching tent there to chalk out their election strategy.

A last minute compromise between the two factions, however, is not ruled out.

The elections to the posts of president, secretary, vice presidents (five), joint secretary and treasurer top the agenda on the opening day of the two-day BCCI annual general meeting on Wednesday, when the national selection committee would also be reconstituted.

But all eyes are focussed on the election to prestigious post of the president with Maharashtra strongman Pawar throwing his hat into the ring.

The elections assume greater significance in view of the telecast row which has dragged the Board to the court and for which Dalmiya's rivals have been blaming him.

Pawar, who arrived in Kolkata on Monday, has been holding a series of closed-door meetings with his loyalists and supporters to woo voters.

Pawar, who heads the Mumbai Cricket Association, however, is yet to formally announce his candidature, but has the backing of Dalmiya's old rivals - former BCCI president I S Bindra of Punjab and former secretary Raj Singh Dungarpur of Cricket Club of India.

Bindra-controlled Punjab Cricket Association announced two days ago it would nominate Pawar for the post of president since it is the turn of the North Zone to propose a candidate for the top post.

Dungarpur has also gone on record claiming that Pawar would get at least 18 votes out of a maximum 31 thus ensuring his win.

Against Pawar, Mahendra, has announced his candidature for presidentship and has also expressed confidence of victory.

Mahendra, a seasoned cricket administrator and currently one of the vice-presidents of the Board, is relying on Dalmiya's clout among a majority of the affiliate units of the Board.

"I am contesting for the post of president and am quite hopeful to get the required numbers," Mahendra, who arrived in Kolkata last night, said on Tuesday.

To a query whether he would contest with a complete panel of office-bearers, he said, "I am definitely for the post of the president. A complete panel or not will be decided later today". It was learnt that the Dalmiya group would be fielding incumbent secretary S K Nair for re-election with Brijesh Patel and Jyoti Bajpai for the posts of joint secretary and treasurer respectively.

Meanwhile, Sharad Pawar kept his options open saying that he would take the plunge only if he was sure of victory.

"I have not taken the decision myself. Some of my well wishers have been asking me to contest. But I will contest only if I am sure of a win," Pawar told newsmen on the eve of the keenly watched election on Wednesday.

Pawar's candidature has been announced by the Punjab Cricket Association since it is the North Zone's turn to propose a candidate for presidentship, a post being vacated by Jagmohan Dalmiya at the end of his three year tenure.

Pawar, who heads the Maharashtra Cricket Association, remained non-committal saying, "This time it is the turn of North Zone, I am from the West Zone. Until and unless other colleagues in the Board take a decision, a final view in the matter will not be taken".

He, however, refuted the comments of the rival camp that politicians should not come into sports bodies saying, "I am associated with many sports bodies for the last 35 years, but I never bring politics into sports".

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