Battle for BCCI: Who has the numbers?
Jagmohan Dalmiya's demise has reduced the Board of Control for Cricket in India to a Battle for Control of Cricket in India. With the veteran cricket administrator's seat vacant, the board mandarins are now busy planning their next moves.
Though most have described the current scenario as a Game of Thrones, it actually bears more resemblance to the twists and turns in the popular US television drama 'House of Cards' instead.
Frank Underwood's line 'The road to power is paved with hypocrisy and casualties. Never regret,' aptly describes the Nagpur meeting between Sharad Pawar and N Srinivasan.
The duo, after having battled each other in several elections in the past, met to strategize for the road ahead. The Tamil Nadu strongman also met supporters in Bengaluru, comprising three East Zone units, in a bid to keep his flock together ahead of the impending BCCI SGM.
The popular comment, after news of Dalmiya's death trickled in, was about the board now having to fill his big shoes.
In reality, that may not have been an accurate assessment. The Kolkata businessman was a cricket administrating giant, but age and frail health had prevented him from doing what he loved most - running Indian cricket – of late.
For all practical purposes, BCCI was being run by Anurag Thakur. From signing MOUs with companies to hopping into TV studios for lunch-time shows during Test matches, the young face of the board has been everywhere in the last few months.
Which is why the election of the next board president boils down to a face-off between camps of the BJP MP and his bete noir Srinivasan.
Thakur's election as secretary, beating Sanjay Patel by a single vote, led to a significant dilution of Srinivasan's power in the BCCI. Though all other key posts are still controlled by the ICC chairman's men, Thakur has been able to take key decisions without being cornered, as was initially anticipated.
The Thakur-Srinivasan spat turned ugly, as both made snide remarks and took pot shots at each through the media.
Hence Srinivasan rushed to his enemy Pawar to foil any attempts of his greater enemy Thakur, as both parties want to seat a favorable candidate in president's chair.
Politics in BCCI, a mix of canny and powerful politicians vying for control of one of the world's richest sporting body, is fairly complicated. However, like every election, the BCCI election too is governed by arithmetic.
It is East Zone's turn to nominate a candidate for the BCCI presidency this time. Hence anybody wanting to occupy the hot seat has to be nominated by at least one of the six East Zone units.
The candidate must have attended at least two Annual General Meetings of the board and been or continues to be an office bearer of BCCI.
If there is an election, the successful candidate will have to secure at least 16 out of a possible 30 votes.
Srinivasan camp, for now, is assured of eight votes with Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, Hyderabad, Jharkhand, Odisha, Assam and Haryana units solidly backing the former BCCI president.
The Thakur faction controls seven votes, as Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Railways, Services and Universities are in its favor.
Pawar has support of 10 units, as Mumbai, Maharashtra, Saurashtra, Baroda, Vidharbha, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, CAB, NCC and Tripura are expected to back the NCP chief.
Uttar Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, CCI and Goa units fall under the 'undecided' category, while Rajasthan was disqualified by BCCI.
The person who will chair the SGM, in the absence of the president, has one vote.
The coming days will see hectic parleying to anoint the next BCCI president. We may also have a situation wherein there is no election, with a consensus candidate being chosen by the faction-ridden board.
If indeed Srinivasan can convince Pawar of his loyalty, the latter could decide to contest himself or propose the name of Shashank Manohar for the presidency. Having lost just one cricket election, the Maratha strongman is known to enter the electoral fray only when he has the numbers. Whether Manohar and Srinivasan can bury their hatchet, is another matter.
Be it cricket or politics, Rajeev Shukla is never too far away from the corridors of power. Unlike in Parliament, the Congress MP is considered close to the BJP camp in BCCI. He enjoys a healthy relationship with every key player in the board, which is why chances of Shukla emerging as a consensus candidate are fairly high.
For now, Thakur has not really flexed his muscles, preferring to wait and watch Srinivasan's moves. With the power to call the SGM vested in him, the Hamirpur MP will make certain he has a definitive say in who heads the board next.
Interestingly, Thakur's mentor and India's finance minister has found no mention in the news this time around. For those that have closely followed Arun Jaitley's career, will know he remains a key constituent of board politics despite no longer being its active member. He could well have the last laugh in this game of snakes and ladders.
'For those climbing to the top of the food chain there can be no mercy,' is another Frank Underwood line, which sums up the discourse that will play out in the days to come as a phalanx of mighty adversaries throw their hats into the ring to grab an iconic symbol of power.