Press Trust of india

TMC stokes Bengali sub-nationalism over Sourav episode as BJP walks tightrope

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Kolkata: The Sourav Ganguly-BCCI episode has brought Bengali sub-nationalism, which has gained strength in West Bengal politics since the growth of BJP in the state, back to the fore with the ruling TMC being the biggest beneficiary of the current issue and the saffron party walking a tightrope.

Roger Binny, a member of the 1983 World Cup winning squad, has been elected as the 36th president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), taking over from Ganguly. However, the sports body’s AGM on Tuesday concluded without any discussion on the ICC election.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s son Jay Shah was re-elected as the BCCI secretary for a second successive term.

However, Ganguly’s exit didn’t pass off as a regular event as West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC boss Mamata Banerjee expressed shock over his “removal” as the BCCI president and sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s intervention so that he is allowed to contest the election for the ICC chairmanship.

Banerjee hailed Ganguly as not only the pride of Bengal but also the entire nation, and said the matter should not be treated politically or vindictively.

“It is a win-win situation for the TMC. If Ganguly is allowed to contest the ICC election, we can say that the BJP finally had to accept it because of the TMC’s demand.

“If he is not allowed, it would be proved that the BJP is anti-Bengal and will hurt Bengali pride by insulting one of our icons,” senior TMC leader and MP Sougata Roy told PTI.

The TMC had fanned Bengali sub-nationalism by coining poll slogan ‘Bangla Nijer Meyekei Chai’ (Bengal wants its own daughter), and used it to trounce the BJP in the 2021 assembly elections.

The TMC had earlier termed Ganguly’s exit from the BCCI a result of “political vendetta” and accused the BJP of “trying to humiliate” the former Indian skipper as it failed to induct him into the party.

“The people of West Bengal and the country want to know why Sourav Ganguly was not allowed a second term while Jay Shah was re-elected. The saffron party has to answer why it is trying to insult Ganguly. This decision proves that the BJP is an anti-Bengal party,” TMC state general secretary Kunal Ghosh said.

Ganguly was once rumoured to be the man BJP wanted to rope in for a leadership role in the party’s West Bengal unit, as it was looking for a face to counter Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s charisma. However, the legendary cricketer has steered away from politics, confining himself to cricket administration so far.

The BJP, which has said that Banerjee should appoint Ganguly as the state’s brand ambassador replacing Bollywood megastar Shah Rukh Khan if she was “so concerned” with the developments in BCCI, accepted that the issue might prove to be detrimental for the saffron camp for the time being.

“We all know how the TMC has misused the issue of Bengali pride to counter the BJP in Bengal during the assembly polls. This Sourav Ganguly issue and the TMC trying to showcase it as Bengali pride versus BJP might prove detrimental for us for the time being. The onus is now on us to reach out to the masses with the message that we are neither against Bengal nor Sourav Ganguly,” BJP national secretary Anupam Hazra said.

This is not the first time, however, that Bengal politicians have batted for the “Prince of Calcutta”.

When he was dropped from the Indian side during a rift with team coach Greg Chappel in 2005, the then West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya and state minister Ashok Bhattacharya have openly come out in his support.

“I just want to say that Sourav Ganguly should steer away from politics. The TMC and the BJP are two sides of the same coin; their only agenda is to control the sports institutions,” Ashok Bhattacharya said.

Meanwhile, a Bengali nationalist outfit, Bangla Pokkho, said the state would never accept the “injustice” meted out to Sourav Ganguly.

“When the 2021 assembly elections were around the corner, the BJP then needed Sourav. As the elections are over, they are trying to humiliate Dada (elder brother — as Sourav is fondly called by his supporters). The people of Bengal will never accept this humiliation,” Kaushik Maiti, a senior leader of Bangla Pokkho, said.

The political analysts, however, felt that the issue has provided Bengal’s ruling party with some breathing space as it has been beleaguered by several graft cases and the arrest of its leaders by CBI and ED.

“The Sourav Ganguly-BCCI episode is a win-win situation for the TMC; the party will benefit from it politically. Also, the issue has provided the TMC with an alternative narrative to divert attention from the graft cases that have bogged down the party since the beginning of this year,” political analyst Maidul Islam said.

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