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Mahendra wins a bitter battle

By Our Special Correspondent



R.S. Mahendra talks to the media after being elected the new BCCI President.

KOLKATA, SEPT. 29. It was a stunning end to a bitterly fought battle to head the richest sports body in India, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

The first day of the two-day 75th annual general meeting was full of suspense, drama and legal tangle before everything was conquered. At the end of the day, it was Ranbir Singh Mahendra of Haryana who edged one of the most powerful personalities in Indian politics, Sharad Pawar, with the help of the chairman Jagmohan Dalmiya's casting vote by 16-15.

Once the chief of the Board was decided, the rest fell in place with sitting secretary, S. Karunakaran Nair defeating Niranjan Shah of Saurashtra 17-13 and Bengal's Gautam Dasgupta beating sitting joint secretary, Prof. Ratnakar Shetty of Mumbai 16-14. Jyoti Bajpai of Uttar Pradesh retained the treasurer's post unopposed.

Mr. Pawar was very modest in defeat. Calm and cool, the Maratha strongman accepted the verdict and spoke of helping the great institution grow further. "I accept the verdict and would not like to go to the court. I will extend full support to the new president,'' he told the media

Mr. Mahendra thought it was a fair contest and the disqualification of the Maharashtra representatives by the chairman was correct.

Mr. Pawar did attribute the loss to the disqualification of the Maharashtra representative. To a question whether the third umpire had given him out, he quipped, "third umpire, second umpire, first umpire and the bowler was the same person.''

Adjournments

The day began with two adjournments after a retired Supreme Court judge, Justice S. Mohan, arrived with an order of the Madras High Court to act as "commissioner'' during the AGM to help conduct "smooth and fair'' election. Te ruling faction, which moved a division bench of the Madras High Court and got a stay order.

Justice Mohan refused to accept the letter of the Board lawyer sent from Chennai and sought to see the order of the Bench. This caused two adjournments. Once the faxed documents satisfied Justice Mohan he left the hall for the business to begin.

Then two issues came up involving Maharashtra and Rajasthan. The president of the Board who chaired the meeting along with retired Justice Bhagabati Prasad Banerjee of the Calcutta High Court, who was asked to be present during the meeting to give legal opinion if needed. After the hearing the two representatives of Maharashtra, D.C. Agashe and S.G. Thorve, Mr. Dalmiya did not allow either to attend the meeting on the advice of Justice Banerjee.

Mr. Dalmiya said the Maharashtra Cricket Association was being run under the supervision of court-appointed observers, B.G. Deshmukh and M.N. Singh, who the management committee should be consulting in every policy matter. In this case, he said, the communication from Mr. Deshmukh clearly stated that Mr. Agashe did take the consent of the two observers to attend the meeting. Mr. Agashe was disqualified on this ground. Mr. Thorve did not seek to attend the meeting.

There were two representatives from the Rajasthan Cricket Association as well. Mr. Kishore Rungta, who produced a letter from the president of the association, was allowed to attend, while Mr. Lalith Modi had only a letter of authorisation from the joint secretary of the State body.

The meeting unanimously passed the annual report, annual accounts and the budget for 2004-2005. The rest of the business including selecting the vice-presidents working committee would be taken up tomorrow.

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