Kolkata: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee came out to bat for Sourav Ganguly, saying that the former India skipper was “deprived” from being renominated for a second term as the head of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).
The chief minister, who has often clashed with the central government, also urged the prime minister to send Ganguly to the International Cricket Council (ICC).
“I want to know why Sourav was axed. The way he was removed [from BCCI] in an unfair manner can only be compensated by sending him to ICC. My humble request to the honourable PM, is to allow him to contest for ICC [chairman post]. He’s been deprived,” Mamata told the media Monday at Kolkata airport.
Nominations for the ICC chairman have to be filed on October 20.
The Bengal chief minister herself issued the statement before flying to North Bengal for administrative engagements.
“Sourav is a popular figure. Is that why he’s been deprived? I am really shocked. Don’t take it politically or vindictively. He’s not a political party member. I urge the government to take a decision for the [benefit of] sports,” Mamata said.
While his three-year term expired in September, Ganguly was eligible for another term as per the BCCI’s rules and regulations. Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s son Jay Shah, meanwhile, will continue as the BCCI secretary for a second consecutive term.
Ex-India selector Roger Binny is set to replace Ganguly as the cricket body’s 36th president at the BCCI’s annual general meeting on 18 October. The Board hasn’t issued any statement on Sourav’s exit, so far.
On Saturday, Ganguly told reporters at Eden Gardens in Kolkata that he would be filing nomination on 22 October to contest the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) election. The outgoing BCCI president had served as the CAB president from 2015 to 2019.
A sports icon in his state, Ganguly has been a subject of much debate in West Bengal politics ever since the 2021 assembly polls. The retired cricketer has so far not given any indication of plunging into politics.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah along with senior leaders of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had dinner at Ganguly’s residence in Behala on 6 May, leading to a speculation that he was inching towards the main opposition party that is trying hard to make inroads in Bengal.
Mamata, too, has maintained close ties with Kolkata’s ‘Maharaj’, the name given to Ganguly by his fans. Ganguly had shared the stage with Mamata on 1 September to thank UNESCO for honouring Bengal’s Durga Puja with an intangible heritage tag.
The Bengal chief minister had rushed to the hospital to check up on Ganguly when he was admitted in January last year after a chest pain. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also called Ganguly to enquire about his health.
Cricketer-turned-politician Manoj Tiwary echoed Mamata’s sentiment that sports and politics have to be kept separate.
“I support the statement that the honourable CM has made. Sports and politics have to be kept separate. There has been some internal politics within the BCCI because just a few weeks ago, they [BCCI officials] moved court to remove the cooling off period. Why suddenly has Dada [Ganguly} been asked to go? As a player who has seen him on the field till his last match, we don’t like it. Sourav is the pride of our country,” the Bengal sports minister told ThePrint.
BJP MP Dilip Ghosh, however, claimed the Trinamool Congress (TMC) was only politicising the issue. “Sourav Ganguly is a cricket legend. I don’t know when the BJP tried to rope him into the party. I don’t know why TMC is shedding crocodile tears. Did they have any role when he took over as the BCCI chief? TMC needs to stop politicising this now,” he told ThePrint.
(Edited by Tony Rai)
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