Former cricketer and president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) Saurav Ganguly’s heart ailment has sparked off a political debate. With doctors advising him to stay away from hectic schedule for next few weeks, political observers consider it as a setback to the BJP, which has been eyeing to rope him for the West Bengal Assembly election.
Politicians made a beeline at the Kolkata hospital where Saurav Ganguly was admitted after he complained of discomfort in chest last week. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee met Ganguly and expressed gratitude to doctors treating him. She said, “He is doing well. He asked me whether I am doing fine.”
The first to visit was Mamata Banerjee’s minister Firhad Hakim followed by Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar. A meeting with Dhamkhar in December 2020 had sparked off fresh debate over Saurav Ganguly joining the BJP making the April-May Bengal election a “Didi versus Dada” battle.
Dhankhar said, “I’m happy to see him smile. He was in his usual cheerful mood. He lives in our hearts. We all have high regard for him.”
Leaders from the BJP and the CPI-M also visited Saurav Ganguly in hospital. CPI-M leader Ashok Bhattacharya even said Ganguly was under pressure to join politics. “Some people wanted to use Ganguly politically. That probably exerted pressure on him. He is not a political element,” reports have quoted Ashok Bhattacharya as saying.
GANGULY’S POLITICAL PAST
Ashok Bhattacharya’s statement held significance in the view of his long-standing equation with Saurav Ganguly. Bhattacharya is a long-term family friend of Saurav Ganguly.
His statement therefore evoked a sharp response from the BJP. Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh said, “Some people see politics in everything due to their sick mindset. Like millions of his fans, we only wish that Saurav recovers fully.”
Reports have it that Saurav Ganguly had received a piece of land from the Left Front government — Ashok Bhattacharya was the urban development and municipal affairs minister — to build a school. But due to legal issues, Saurav Ganguly never got the possession of the land.
It is also reported that after the change of power in Bengal, the West Bengal Housing Infrastructure Development Corporation under the Mamata Banerjee government allocated the land to Saurav Ganguly again for building a senior secondary school. The Ganguly Educational and Welfare Society returned the two-acre land in August 2020, when Saurav Ganguly met Mamata Banerjee at her office.
Mamata Banerjee had earlier supported Saurav Ganguly in getting elected as the president of the Bengal Cricket Association to thwart the attempts being made then by former BCCI president N Srinivasan, a powerful cricket administrator in India.
GANGULY’S POLITICAL PRESENT
Saurav Ganguly became BCCI president in October 2019 with the support from Amit Shah and his cabinet colleague Anurag Thakur, the former BCCI president who was removed from the post by a Supreme Court order. Along with Ganguly, two more persons were elected unopposed to key posts — Amit Shah’s son Jay Shah as BCCI secretary and Anurag Thakur’s brother Arun Dhumal as BCCI treasurer.
This set off a debate that Saurav Ganguly’s joining the BJP was only a question of when not if. The speculation fuelled further after Amit Shah, then as the BJP president, had said, “The BJP did not try to recruit him [Saurav Ganguly]If he does, it is good. I tell every citizen of this country that the BJP is a good party to join. It is my job.”
Saurav Ganguly too in an interview later dismissed the speculation saying “there wasn’t any barter (with Amit Shah), it never existed. When Anurag Thakur became president, we supported him. When Shashank Manohar became president, Dalmiya backed him. It’s the same with Mr Scindia and Mr Pawar. Where is the question of joining the BJP?”
GANGULY’S POLITICAL FUTURE
It is uncertain whether Saurav Ganguly will join politics, and the BJP, at all or not. Until now, Saurav Ganguly has denied that he has any plan to enter politics.
On December 27, after meeting Governor Dhankhar, Ganguly said, “I had never been to Raj Bhavan. He assumed office almost a year ago, but he has never visited Eden Gardens either. So, he wanted to talk, and if the state’s governor called, I had to go.”
He said, “We only spoke about games, there was no other discussion. He wants to visit Eden Gardens, which we will arrange.” It is a remark very similar to what Saurav Ganguly had made after he became the BCCI president in 2019.
Yet, his meeting with Governor Dhankhar and perceptible proximity to BJP leaders including Amit Shah might have unnerved the TMC as CM Mamata Banerjee eyes a third consecutive term in Bengal Assembly election.
It was in this backdrop, Trinamool Congress MP Saugata Roy recently said, “Sourav Ganguly is a Bengali iconWe know that there has been an attempt to project the election as a Didi versus Dada fight but we think Sourav Ganguly is prudent enough to not fall in the trap laid by the BJP. It is just a matter of optics.”
However, the timing of Ganguly’s decision to return the land to the Mamata Banerjee government, a performance by his wife Dona Ganguly — a noted Odissi dancer — at a programme that Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed during Durga Puja last year and his meeting with Bengal Governor Dhankhar are being seen as important developments before his conjectured political plunge holding BJP’s flag.