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Why Pawar's victory is significant

By Deepti Patwardhan
November 29, 2005 20:46 IST
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For 21 years, Indian cricket was all about Jagmohan Dalmiya. Tuesday changed everything.

Sharad Pawar did what other seasoned Indian cricket administrators could not. With the expertise of former presidents like Raj Singh Dungarpur and I S Bindra at his service, he manipulated a political coup and beat Dalmiya at his own game.

Pawar's election to the office of president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, after a failed attempt last year, reflected a change in power equations. His team swept the polls by comprehensive margins at the highly-surcharged 76th Annual General Meeting in Kolkata. The Union Agriculture Minister defeated the Dalmiya-backed incumbent Ranbir Singh Mahendra by a whopping 20-11 margin, in stark contrast to last year's elections that saw Mahendra pip Pawar 16-15, thanks to Dalmiya's casting vote.

In a complete washout for the Dalmiya group, the Pawar faction won all other top posts by identical 18-13 margins.

How did the fight get bitter?

In an exclusive interview to rediff.com after being elected BCCI president last year, Ranbir Singh Mahendra admitted that Pawar's presence had spiced up the election.

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"When Sharad Pawarji announced his candidature, I thought the contest would be a tough one. It would no longer be a cakewalk had there been any other candidate," he said.

The Dalmiya camp then had sensed impending danger and fabricated a legal hurdle to defeat their opponents. A deliberate dispute was created over the representation of Maharashtra and Dyaneshwar Agashe, a Board member for 20 years, who was not allowed to vote. A Dalmiya man was allowed to vote from the Rajasthan Cricket Association instead of Lalit Modi, who owed allegiance to Pawar. Dalmiya's casting vote also gave him the edge. The Kolkata strongman was also appointed Patron-in-chief of Indian cricket and observer of the 2004 election.

In normal course, the outgoing president oversees the election of his successor. However, former BCCI president A C Muthaiah had moved the court seeking the appointment of a judge to oversee the election. But with the Madras high court granting a stay on that order, Dalmiya was allowed to conduct them.

What happened this time?

After much delay in proceedings, the BCCI Annual General meeting was adjourned on September 23. Again, both factions indulged in legal wrangles to disqualify associations that would not favour them. The Pawar camp wanted the court to appoint a three-man panel to oversee the elections. These observers would have had the power to disqualify voting associations, but they were dismissed, following another legal battle in the Kolkata high court by Dalmiya.

Problems also erupted as the Bihar Cricket Association and Jharkhand Cricket Association wanted separate voting rights. The Supreme Court then appointed T Krishnamurthy as sole observer for the elections. Krishnamurthy released the voters' list for the 76th AGM on November 28, with Jharkhand being given voting rights.

Although the Dalmiya camp saw this as a 'moral victory' before the elections, they expressed disappointment when Krishnamurthy cleared the Himachal Pradesh representative to vote. Krishnamurthy allowed two votes from Uttar Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh and also said that Bihar could vote on the morning of the election.

The orders were passed on Tuesday morning after the Sharad Pawar group challenged Monday's order of the observer allowing votes from UP, HP and Jharkhand, which had given an edge to the Dalmiya group.

This time though, the Pawar faction was well prepared for all the loopholes Dalmiya would want to exploit. It had done its homework well. Winning by a huge margin was solid proof.

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Deepti Patwardhan

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