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The Rediff Special/Pradeep Gooptu
Jagmohan Dalmiya: A master negotiator
October 03, 2005
Jagmohan Dalmiya is known in Kolkata, his hometown, as a man who would much rather negotiate and settle a matter with you than slug it out for years on end.
At the same time, in a city dominated by traditional business families and a none-too-progressive leadership, he is known as the toughest negotiator.
Both qualities stood Dalmiya in good stead as he fought off his detractors on two fronts and managed to save his troubled ship. Dalmiya detractors in Indian cricket -- I S Bindra of the Punjab body and Raj Singh Dungarpur -- are well known, but in the past year, they have found a new champion in Sharad Pawar of Maharastra.
Last year, Pawar suffered a defeat in the elections of the Board for Control of Cricket in India and Dalmiya's nominee, Congressman Ranbir Singh Mahendra, was elected.
The situation turned more serious for Dalmiya in 2005, as Pawar appeared to have secured his votes and Mahendra's Congress links appeared to be fading. Dalmiya won through by moving the Calcutta high court first to secure the services of a retired high court judge as observer.
When the opposition moved the same court to get two retired Supreme Court justices as additional observers, Dalmiya delivered his masterstroke in the appeal court by pointing out that the first order was revised before it could be implemented and was, therefore, inconsistent.
The court accepted the viewpoint and directed BCCI to conduct its meeting under the retired high court judge. The situation to do a deal none could refuse had been created.
By then, both sides were ready to talk. Pawar's ally Farooq Abdullah of Jammu & Kashmir had spelt out a compromise and Dalmiya made it point to do some public displays of bonhomie with his detractors.
The BCCI's election meeting ended without a conclusion, with Mahendra still in the chair and elections put off till Dalmiya could marshal his forces again.
Pawar appeared to be the sole loser, having to go back empty-handed once again except for a seat on the committee that hawks marketing rights for cricket matches.
Simultaneously, Team India's new coach Greg Chappell launched his offensive against captain Sourav Ganguly, and Dalmiya's detractors joined in to slam the skipper, widely perceived as a Dalmiya protégé.
While BCCI heard out both sides in Mumbai -- Pawar's turf -- Ganguly's defence of his position won the day and both sides were asked to play cricket and not wash their linen in public.
Ganguly survived with a martyr's halo, and Dalmiya won through.Two battles won in two weeks is by no means a bad record, but the war is far from over. The BCCI elections have to be held by November-end, and the legal battle has predictably reached the Supreme Court, where the embarrassment caused to two former justices of the apex court will be no doubt highlighted by Dalmiya's foes.