Arun Jaitley impressed upon Pawar that he was best suited to steer the BCCI through its present crisis—the Lodha panel report will change the way cricket is administered in the country.
Their every move is being watched. As Sharad Pawar, Rajeev Shukla and Narayanswami Srinivasan sat in the visitors' dressing room at the Eden Gardens after paying their last respects to Jagmohan Dalmiya, the distance between their perches was noted and interpreted. Even as tributes were pouring in for Dalmiya, president of Board of Control for Cricket in India, who died in Kolkata on September 20, the question on everyone's mind was: Who will be the next BCCI chief?
As per the BCCI constitution rule (v): “In case of vacancy occurring in the office of president by reason of death or by him being adjudged insolvent or by him being convicted in a criminal case by a competent court or by resignation or otherwise, the Hon/secretary shall within 15 days convene a Special General Body Meeting (SGM) to elect the 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 shall hold office till the next elections.”
Dalmiya's death has expectedly left a vacuum in the BCCI. And, the person who could fill his shoes is the one who overthrew Dalmiya from the president's post in 2005—Nationalist Congress Party president Sharad Pawar. Also doing the rounds for the top job are the names of Congress MP Rajeev Shukla, who is chairman of the governing council of the Indian Premier League, BCCI joint secretary Amitabh Choudhary, who heads the Jharkhand Cricket Association, and BCCI vice president for the east zone Gautam Roy, who represents the Assam Cricket Association.
Dalmiya was elected president for the second time at the BCCI's annual general body meeting (AGM) in March; his first stint was in 2001. He had been serving as the interim chief after International Cricket Council president Srinivasan stepped aside from the BCCI post in 2013 following the IPL spot-fixing scandal. His tenure, along with that of the other office bearers, was till 2017. Though a new person will be at the helm now, BJP MP Anurag Thakur will continue as honorary secretary of the BCCI and Anirudh Chaudhary as its treasurer. The new president, too, will be in office till 2017. However, if the post of joint secretary falls vacant, then the president will have to nominate a new person as per the rules.
The six members of the east zone will be nominating the president, and, as is the well-established norm, nothing will be certain till the day of the AGM or the SGM. The power play, however, has begun among the three main factions—led by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Srinivasan and Pawar—within the BCCI. The Jaitley faction consists mostly of north and central zone votes; the Pawar faction controls most of the west and some central zone votes; and the Srinivasan camp controls votes from the south, Haryana and Odisha. None of these camps have the majority and, therefore, one will have to combine with another faction to win. Dalmiya controlled the east zone votes but at the last AGM he had thrown his lot with Jaitley as he was opposed to Pawar, owing to their public and bitter rivalry. With Jaitley's tangible power and clout both within and outside the BCCI, board members pointed out that the “new president will have to be someone that Thakur can work with”. Thakur, as is well known, is Jaitley's protege and his man on the board. As one top BCCI official put it succinctly, “Now, we will have a president,” pointing to the fact that Thakur was calling most of the shots in the last days of Dalmiya.
Jaitley and Pawar reportedly had an informal exchange of views before Jaitley left for his Singapore and Hong Kong visit. Pawar and Srinivasan, too, seem to have had a similar exchange before they met at Dalmiya's funeral. According to sources, Jaitley impressed upon Pawar, 74, to take charge of the BCCI as he was best suited to steer it through its present crisis—the Justice R.M. Lodha committee's report is expected to bring in major changes in the way cricket is administered in the country. It is believed that only Pawar with his stature, clout and political acumen will be able to guide the board during the difficult period.
On the other hand, Srinivasan, who continues to hold some sway within the BCCI thanks to 13 of the total 29 votes, has reportedly got an assurance from both Pawar and Jaitley that his position as ICC chairman will not be threatened.
Reportedly, a chance to lead the board once again was offered to former BCCI president Shashank Manohar but he turned down the offer. Manohar and Srinivasan have been bitter rivals as the Nagpur man feels that Srinivasan is responsible for the loss of BCCI credibility. A large section in the BCCI feels that the board leadership is going back to the veterans, ignoring hardworking members.
Meanwhile, as Jaitley, Pawar and Srinivasan play their cards, the joker in the pack could turn out to be the Lodha report that could change the entire face and structure of the BCCI.