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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
06CALCUTTA327 2006-08-01 13:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Consulate Kolkata
Cable title:  

GOOD AND EVIL IN THE EDEN GARDENS CRICKET GROUNDS:

Tags:   PGOV PHUM SOCI IN 
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VZCZCXRO7074
PP RUEHBI RUEHCI
DE RUEHCI #0327/01 2131344
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P R 011344Z AUG 06
FM AMCONSUL CALCUTTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1058
INFO RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 0947
RUEHCG/AMCONSUL CHENNAI 0360
RUEHBI/AMCONSUL MUMBAI 0360
RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA 0212
RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU 0217
RHHJJPI/PACOM IDHS HONOLULU HI
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEHCI/AMCONSUL CALCUTTA 1296
					  UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 CALCUTTA 000327 

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM SOCI IN
SUBJECT: GOOD AND EVIL IN THE EDEN GARDENS CRICKET GROUNDS:
POLITICS AND CRICKET COLLIDE IN WEST BENGAL

REF: CALCUTTA 00244



1. (SBU) SUMMARY. On July 30, two passions in West Bengal
(WB), cricket and politics, collided in the voting for the
Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) presidency. The election
took on a significance greater than normal for a local sporting
association as the two candidates, former president of the Board
of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) Jagmohan Dalmiya and
Calcutta Police Commissioner Prasun Mukherjee became proxies for
factions within the WB Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPM).
Dalmiya, considered highly corrupt, was supported by former CPM
West Bengal Chief Minister (CM) Jyoti Basu and old-line Leftist
CPM leaders striving to protect their position in the party
against the growing dominance of CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.
Bhattacharjee had put forward and publicly supported Police
Commissioner Mukherjee in an effort to clean-up the CAB and to
insulate it from Dalmiya and his reputation for graft.
Demonstrating his continued influence and strong political
backing, Dalmiya won the election on July 30. The following
day, CM Bhattacharjee vented his frustration over the results in
a surprising outburst at an afternoon press conference saying
that Dalmiya's win was a "Victory of evil over good, over right
thinking people." Tensions between CM Bhattacharjee and CPM
leaders of the Jyoti Basu camp had been festering since the
party's victory in the May state assembly elections. The CAB
elections served to bring the intra-party wrangling to the
surface. End Summary.



2. (SBU) Reflecting the axiom, "the smaller the stakes, the
bigger the fight," the July 30 CAB elections became a major test
of wills between CM Bhattacharjee and CPM patriarch Jyoti Basu.
The 93-year old Basu, who served as CPM CM of West Bengal for 24
years, is still a national Politburo member and a strong figure
within the state CPM hierarchy. Basu apparently blocked CM
Bhattacharjee in his effort to select all his own cabinet
ministers after the CPM's resounding victory in the May state
assembly elections. Basu was reportedly instrumental in
retaining some ministers that were seen as either corrupt or
incompetent, such as godfather-like Transportation and Sports
Minister Subhas Chakraborty. Basu's criterion for these
ministers was loyalty to him rather than competence. Basu and
his Left supporters have also been critical of Bhattacharjee's
efforts to attract large investments to West Bengal. In May,
after the state assembly elections, Tata Sons CEO Ratan Tata
announced plans for a USD 230 million car factory in the state.
Basu and Chakraborty criticized the initiative for potentially
dislocating farmers and reducing the state's fertile
agricultural land (REFTEL).



3. (SBU) However, the CPM, noted for party solidarity,
attempted to keep its disputes from the public eye. As related
to ConGen by a local businessman with links to Chakraborty, the
CAB election became an opportunity for Basu and Chakraborty to
thwart the CM by discretely supporting Dalmiya, without overtly
breaking party ranks. The CM and Chakraborty, a diehard Basu
loyalist, have had a tense relationship for years.
Bhattacharjee had sought to oust Dalmiya from his position as
the CAB president because of Dalmiya's reputation for corruption
and out of concern that Dalmiya's other nemesis, national BCCI
President and Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar would
block future cricket matches in West Bengal and its Eden Gardens
stadium should Dalmiya win. CM Bhattacharjee put forward
Calcutta Police Commissioner Prasun Mukherjee to contest the
election. The pre-election campaigning became charged with
Basu, Chakraborty and even WB CPM General Secretary Biman Basu
questioning the CM injecting himself into the CAB elections.
Events took a dramatic turn when Commissioner Mukherjee released
to the press an e-mail reportedly from local cricket hero and
former India cricket team captain Sourav Ganguly, in which
Ganguly wrote in reference to Dalmiya, "There are people in the
CAB who are playing with players' careers to suit them . . . . I
am happy that the chief minister and the people concerned are
addressing issues and working in the right path."



4. (SBU) Dalmiya's influence and political supporters carried
the day for him as he won the CAB presidency, with the member
sporting associations and clubs voting 61-56 for Dalmiya. The
victory prompted CM Bhattacharjee at an afternoon press
conference on July 31 to characterize the election as a battle
of "good versus evil." He went on to say, "It is fight between
justice and injustice . . . I will not compromise with
wrongdoing. This man has many vested interests outside cricket,
he has to go. . . If I did not interfere, it would have been a
crime. My interference was necessary to save Eden Gardens

CALCUTTA 00000327 002 OF 002


(cricket stadium) and the future of cricket. Eden is one of the
best stadiums in the world, but it has been turned into an
abandoned one in Dalmiya's regime."



--------------------------



COMMENT



--------------------------





5. (SBU) On the surface, CAB was merely a squabble over who
gets to run a state sporting association. However, cricket and
politics are passions in West Bengal that when combined create
an explosive mix. The CAB elections became an opportunity for
old CPM members, who question CM Bhattacharjee's economic
initiatives and see their influence waning, to publicly thwart
him while retaining the pretense of party solidarity. Dalmiya's
victory, though an embarrassment for the CM, is still an
indication of Bhattacharjee's strength in that it is only on
marginal issues like CAB elections that he has faced significant
opposition from some members of his party. To use the language
of cricket, while the CM's candidate Police Commissioner
Mukherjee was "bowled out," the CM's side is still batting well
as he has gotten his way on development, education reforms and
other key policies.
JARDINE