Jagmohan Dalmiya’s death on Sunday could stoke a Game of Thrones like battle for power within the Board of Control for Cricket in India. A power struggle in the Board has been simmering below the surface for a while now and could erupt into open warfare.
The recently deceased BCCI president was the rallying point for the factions within the Board and his death will undoubtedly reignite the ambitions of those who have been eyeing the top spot ever since the last general elections.
Dalmiya, it will be recalled, was the consensus candidate in these elections and won quite comfortably. But there were clearly two opposing factions – led by former presidents N Srinivasan and Sharad Pawar – straining at the leash to get control even then.
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Dalmiya’s failing health not only meant that secretary Anurag Thakur had to virtually run the BCCI, but also that the two rival groups were readying themselves for any eventuality. That time has arrived.
Dalmiya’s friends and foes within the BCCI descended on Kolkata this past Monday to pay their last respects.
Keeping in mind the sobriety of the occasion, there were no overt statements or moves made by any party to seize control, but action below the surface was thick by all accounts.
Names of several strong and potential claimants to the top post were being bandied around before the hearse carrying Dalmiya’s body had even rolled out from Eden Gardens towards the crematorium.
Those that figure prominently in the race are obviously those of Pawar and Srinivasan – the two clear faction heads and with a long history of rivalry. Other notables are former president Shashank Manohar, secretary Thakur, IPL chairman Rajiv Shukla and treasurer Anirudh Chaudhary.
They could move as individuals, pairs or groups, which may be necessitated by a lack of support or from sheer legal pressure, as would be the case for N Srinivasan whose participation in the affairs of the BCCI awaits `advice’ from the Supreme Court.
But that’s not all. There are others too, seemingly marginal players, who could nevertheless queer the pitch for any of those mentioned above or their parties by switching sides or going solo.
But before getting to who stands the best chance, it’s best to look at what protocol dictates. This is the procedure laid down by the BCCI constitution in case the President’s post becomes vacant mid-term for any reason:
“The secretary shall within 15 days convene a Special General Body Meeting (SGM) to elect the (new) president who shall be nominated by at least one full member from the zone which proposed the name of the president whose term was cut short prematurely. Such person who is so elected shall hold office till the next elections.’’
What this means is that the East Zone, from where Dalmiya hailed, gets top priority to get their man in as interim president. East Zone has the right to presidency for their candidate until 2017. The nomination need be made only by one other association from this zone for it to be ratified.
Jagmohan Dalmiya, instrumental in making BCCI the richest and most powerful cricket board in the world, passes away. RIP
— Cricketwallah (@cricketwallah) September 20, 2015
How Dalmiya & Bindra (with Salve as BCCI prez) got World Cup to India-Pak in 1987 is a great story. How they fell out later no less amazing
— Cricketwallah (@cricketwallah) September 20, 2015
However, if this nominee faces a challenge from somebody from another zone who in turn is proposed by a state association from the East Zone, then it will lead to a showdown.
This could muddle matters for the East Zone as, apart from Dalmiya, there were no real heavyweights in contention. Former captain Sourav Ganguly has excellent credentials, but has only just been elected as joint treasurer.
It is unlikely Ganguly will want to jump into the fray amid such a volatile situation, and in all probability he wants time to understand the mechanics and machinations of BCCI politics before working his way up the ladder.
This obviously does not prevent the East from nominating someone else. But that’s where complications arise, as the state associations in the zone are divided in loyalty to Srinivasan and Pawar. Any nomination would inevitably lead to a challenge from either side.
Even outside of East Zone nominees, there is division. For instance, Thakur – formerly a Srinivasan loyalist – changed allegiance during the last elections and is now closer to Pawar, but treasurer Choudhury remains a Srinivasan man.
Mr Dalmiya was a visionary, a very worthy opponent. My thoughts are with his family. Indian cricket will remember his contribution forever!
— Lalit Kumar Modi (@LalitKModi) September 21, 2015
Picking one over the other could mean a serious contest. One name being touted as a compromise candidate is Shukla who is close to both Pawar and Srinivasan. But that does not reduce the complexity of the situation because of the political dimensions in the BCCI today: Shukla is a Congress MP and the BJP would not like to surrender the top position.
Essentially, Srinivasan and Pawar are front-runners, but with provisos and neither has a clear majority. Unless Pawar is convinced he can get some people to cross the floor, he won’t contest.
Srinivasan in any case has to wait for the Supreme Court to decide what role he can play in the BCCI – the last committee meeting was adjourned after he made an attempt to attend – but will be looking to gather numbers in any case. If Srinivasan is unable to run himself, he will no doubt remain highly influential in the process and has widely been dubbed the BCCI’s ‘kingmaker’.
If all this seems like rigmarole, it is exactly that and time is running out. The BCCI has to have a Special General Meeting within 15 days of the president’s post becoming vacant to choose the next man.
The next fortnight in Indian cricket promises edge-of-the-seat suspense.