Outsider in the big boys’ club

The winter session of Parliament ended in the dead heat of conflict between the ruling National Democratic Alliance and the opposition Congress, neither side willing to yield any space. That is in stark contrast to the way politicians of both sides behave when it comes to alliances in administrative positions in sports bodies. Take the example of cricket. In the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), a body that has a heavy representation of politicians of all hues, even Narendra Modi when he was Chief Minister and head of the Gujarat Cricket Association (GCA), the politics is hardly ever on party lines.

In 2005, when the then Agriculture Minister, Sharad Pawar, ousted sports administrator Jagmohan Dalmiya’s nominee, Congressman Ranbir Singh Mahindra, from the reckoning to be the president of the BCCI, it was a classic case of the board’s politics trumping political and ideological lines. If in electoral politics only interests are said to be permanent, in the politics of the BCCI, that is doubly true. Congressmen will vote with Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders to help the leader of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) get the top post in cricket administration in India.

This can cut both ways of course, your own party colleague can be your bitterest critic, as with BJP MP Kirti Azad and Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. Mr. Azad has been raising issues related to the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA) for the last few years, and yet both remained as part of the same party through these differences.

In his response to the BJP’s notice to suspend him, Mr. Azad in fact wrote rather plaintively, “My allegations with regard to the DDCA have been in the public domain for years, [so] why should I be suspended for anti-party activities?”

So what is different now? Quite clearly, the arrival of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, the true outsider in Indian politics and disruptor-in-chief, is the reason why the issue of politicians in sports, or just the DDCA, has gained political traction. Mr. Azad’s allegations, in the public domain since 2011, became fodder to attack Mr. Jaitley when Mr. Kejriwal’s key aide was raided by the Central Bureau of Investigation.

The main point here is the fact that with no ingress into the sports administrative clubs himself, Mr. Kejriwal need not suffer any pangs of overstepping allegiances, ideological or even of club politics, to attack his political adversaries at will. He has no inter-party networks to protect.

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Printable version | Jan 23, 2022 12:14:29 PM |

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