If a week is a long time in politics, then five days can be a lifetime in cricket politics. Last Sunday, BCCI members, including several political heavyweights, had watched in silence as N Srinivasan told a packed press conference that he had the unanimous support of the board.
Just five days later, the ‘oust Srinivasan’ camp has already acquired a majority, and the momentum seems to be firmly on its side. That the attitude of the anti-Srinivasan group was hardening became apparent when BCCI treasurer Ajay Shirke told Media late Thursday night that he would quit his post in protest if Srinivasan remained impervious to arguments and logic.
“On small things, he (Srinivasan) would call emergency meetings of the board. Why isn’t he calling one when Indian cricket faces such a crisis?” he said. Asked if he would consider quitting if Srinivasan remains adamant, Shirke said, “I won’t consider it, I will quit.”
According to Media’s calculation, based on conversations with office-bearers of most members of BCCI, in the event of a vote, a majority of at least 18 associations/bodies would go against Srinivasan.
There are only six votes that he can be certain of, including two that he would himself cast separately as head of the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association and president of BCCI.
That leaves seven fence-sitters, who may find it difficult to stand up for Srinivasan if they find a majority ranged against him. If six of them decide to go against him, taking the total anti-Srinivasan vote to 24, he would lose by a three-fourths majority and be forced out of office.
With the fence-sitters having now become crucial, both sides are furiously working the phones. The situation is fluid, and is further complicated by the fact that different office-bearers of the same association are often speaking in divergent voices.
Having said that, the pitch is visibly turning and incumbent batsmen Srinivasan faces a torrid time as the opposition closes in. The game began to swing the other way after Jyotiraditya Scindia, Union power minister and chairman of BCCI’s finance committee, said on Tuesday that “propriety demanded that Mr Srinivasan step aside” following a Media front-page report headlined ‘Why are they so silent?’
A day later, Rajeev Shukla, IPL commissioner and one of BCCI’s most powerful men, told Media that he and board vice-president Arun Jaitley wanted Srinivasan to “cede functional responsibilities during the duration of the probe” into the charges of betting and fixing against his son-in-law and Chennai Super Kings principal Gurunath Meiyappan. Shukla is from the Congress and Jaitley from the BJP, so the political divide seems to have been bridged at least in this case.
Within a few hours, the Union sports ministry and former BCCI boss and senior Union ministerSharad Pawar came out against Srinivisan, making for a formidable line-up of foes.
Between them, these big guns can easily muster up 18 votes. Three votes – Railways, Services and Association of Indian Universities – are determined by the central government.
With the sports ministry having indicated its opposition to Srinivasan, there appears little doubt that these three bodies will oppose him. The Jaitley-headed Delhi & Districts Cricket Association will almost certainly vote against Srinivasan, and so will Himachal Pradesh, led by rising BJP politician Anurag Thakur.
The Gujarat association, which is headed by Narendra Modi, has been refusing to speak on the subject. But given BJP’s projection of Modi as the man to lead India after the 2014 elections, it’s hard to see how he could possibly align with an unpopular cause like saving Srinivasan’s job.
The Rajasthan cricket association, headed by Union minister C P Joshi, is set to oppose Srinivasan. So is Madhya Pradesh, which is headed by Jyotiraditya Scindia, who has made no secret of his disenchantment with Srinivasan.
Jagmohan Dalmiya, who controls two votes — the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) and the National Cricket Club (NCC), is opposed to Srinivasan, though it is understood that his support may be conditional on Pawar not replacing Srinivasan.
The other associations likely to vote against Srinivasan are Uttar Pradesh, where Rajeev Shuklahas considerable influence, Punjab, headed by veteran administrator I S Bindra, who was the first to speak out against Srinivasan, Vidarbha, whose big daddy Shashank Manohar is the favourite to take over as interim president if Srinivasan quits or is ousted, Assam, Mumbai, where Pawar holds sway, Maharashtra, Saurashtra and Hyderabad.
Apart from two votes that he can himself cast, right now Srinivasan can only be sure of votes from Tripura, Orissa, (whose association head Ranjib Biswal is accompanying the Indian team to the Champions Trophy as manager) and Kerala.
J&K association chief Farooq Abdullah has publicly backed Srinivasan, though some say that Pawar may yet be able to bring him around.
Among the fence-sitters, Baroda is believed to be veering towards Srinivasan. Shashank Manohar is believed to be in constant touch with Haryana’s Arvind Chowdhry, who is a fence-sitter right now, and could swing his vote against Srinivasan.
The other fence-sitters are Mumbai’s Cricket Club of India, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka (where president Anil Kumble is believed to favour Srinivasan but influential member Brijesh Patel is opposed to him), Goa and Jharkhand.
The anti-Srinivasan camp is now preparing for a showdown with the embattled BCCI president even as it hopes his increasing isolation will persuade the headstrong cricket boss to step down on his own.
It is willing to wait a few days to see if Srinivasan heeds calls to step aside till the probe is completed. But if he remains adamant, his opponents may have no option but to confront him with the number of associations that will go against him.
The number will be more than enough to call a special general meeting. Srinivasan could be defeated by a majority but still survive as president if he loses by less than a three-fourths majority (24 votes), but that would not just be a huge humiliation for him, but virtually make him a lame-duck president.
Even if the ‘oust Srinivasan’ section were to lose, it would still be a moral victory for them – someone like a Jaitley can then say, “We tried, we even got a majority, but the numbers required for removing a president are daunting.”
On his part, Srinivasan continues to insist that he will remain aloof from the probe and need not resign. But he did make a concession, perhaps his first since the Meiyappan controversy broke out, that a meeting of the board could be called after the probe report is in.
It is understood that Srinivasan has conveyed that he would welcome a quick probe that would be over in around three weeks. The report of the probe could then be considered by the board. Srinivasan believes that no links between him and Meiyappan’s alleged indiscretions will emerge.
However, Srinivasan’s opponents are unwilling to wait it out. They feel that Srinivasan must step down at once and have countered his arguments by saying the BCCI chief could return if proved innocent.
“We need to take a call. This can’t go on till September. In order to reinstate faith in the system, Srinivasan will have to make way,” a top BCCI official told MEDIA on Thursday.