Is Dalmiya ready for long haul?

Call him wily, Machiavelli, manipulator, Chanakya what you may, Jagmohan Dalmiya worked out his math to return as president of the Indian Cricket Board (BCCI). He knows the weaknesses of his colleagues in the board and turned the situation to his advantage.

How did Dalmiya manage the numbers? Simple, he had two votes, his own and that of National Cricket Club. Plus he managed Tripura. The other three votes from East – Jharkhand, Odisha and Assam – stayed with Narayanaswami Srinivasan, who has been barred by the Supreme Court to have anything with the functioning of the board, first from dispensing as board president and then contesting the election.

As a quid pro quo, Dalmiya pledged support for Srinivasan’s vice presidential candidates to tilt the scales in a closely-contested fight. The two successfully checkmated Sharad Pawar from getting a nomination from East Zone and then shared the spoils in voting the office-bearers.

There are certain irregularities in the conduct of the election, like the chair using two votes including the casting vote to manipulate the election. One of the members invoked the board’s own none of the above (NOTA) provision to help a candidate win by dropping a blank ballot.

At best of times the victory margins in any serious election were never more one or two votes.

Invariably, the president swung litigious votes in his group’s favour like Shivlal Yadav did in the case of Baroda whose president Samarjit Gaekwad was allowed to represent the association when its executive as empowered by its constitution named Rakesh Parekh. And then Rajasthan, which would have gone the Pawar Group way, was superseded to bring down the strength of the eligible voters to 29.

These shenanigans may not escape the eyes of the Supreme Court’s three-member committee of its former judges, headed by Rajendra Mal Lodha, in recommending fool-proof ethical methods of holding the board’s election.

The court while delivering a historic judgment in the spot fixing and betting scandal in the 2013 Indian Premier League (IPL) in January was unambiguous in requesting the committee to recommend to the board “amendments considered necessary to the memorandum of association of the BCCI and the prevalent rules and regulations for streamlining the conduct of elections to different posts/officers in the BCCI including conditions of eligibility and disqualifications, if any, for candidates wanting to contest the election for such posts, including the office of the president of the BCCI”.

The court has authorised the committee to make “any other recommendation with or without suitable amendment to the board’s relevant rules and regulations, to prevent sporting frauds, conflict of interests, streamlining the working of the board itself to make it more responsive to the expectations of the public at large and to bring transparency in practices and procedures followed by it”.

The most uncharitable quip on the Monday’s board election came from a highly respected former board member: The election is symptomatic of the moribund state the board is in, a geriatric getting back as president.

Howsoever one may admire Dalmiya for the way he fought the election successfully, there is a sneaky feeling whether he has at 74 the physical and mental ability to grapple with the contentious issues dogging the board.

After the Chennai battle, it is clear the board is vertically split. Pawar’s stated purpose of attending the meeting to end Srinivasan’s reign seems to have more or less come true. Though Srinivasan has shown his clout by getting his men elected to most decorative positions in the board, he may find it difficult to handle Dalmiya in the longer run.

The board has “unanimously” authorised Srinivasan to represent it at the International Cricket Council (ICC), it would be interesting to see whether Dalmiya would allow him to do so after the next AGM six months from now. By then the man from the Eden Gardens would have either consolidated his position or would have made way for a powerful politician to step in.

The Supreme Court panel would surely look into the lopsided composition of the executive body. A man from North was elected as vice-president from Central Zone and an official from South got elected as representative from West. That means two men from North and two from South have usurped positions which should have gone to the officials from West and Central. It’s grossly unfair for the people of the two zones which have 11 associations.

Come to think of it, the good old system of the various zones selecting their own officials by rotation for every post was far better than someone like C. K. Khanna, an out and out Delhite, getting elected as Central Zone representative and Kerala’s T. C. Mathew from West. Why Srinivasan did not think of getting someone from other zones to represent South or East?

A case of power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely. Without realising the consequences, he has set a dangerous precedent, even though the rule was made as an exception in the case of president.

Srinivasan tinkered with the board’s constitution by removing the cap on the terms of a president thinking he would be ruling for ever. Ironically, it helped the man who himself once thought of bringing in a similar amendment. Also, Srinivasan was at the forefront as treasurer to expel Dalmiya from the board in 2005 and today they are bedfellows for a consideration.

Monday’s election has yet again proved that there are no permanent friends or foes in the board, only permanent interests. It is just an old boys association where everyone knows what the other man is up to.

At this rate, Lalit Modi has hope. One need not be surprised if one of them tomorrow cohabits with the man who conceptualised the IPL to share power.

Also, watch out for the GenNext headed by Anurag Thakur who has ascended to the most powerful position in today’s board.