Senior Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Ashok Bhattacharya's statement that Board of Control for Cricket in India president and former Indian cricket captain Sourav Ganguly, who suffered a heart attack and is now hospitalised, was under pressure to join politics created a storm on Sunday.
Speculations were rife that the former batting great will join the Bharatiya Janata Party ahead of the state assembly elections due in April-May this year. But Ganguly himself never made his intentions quite clear about taking the political plunge.
He underwent angioplasty after a "mild" heart attack on Saturday.
He is under treatment in a private hospital in Kolkata.
"Some people wanted to use Ganguly politically. That probably exerted pressure on him. He is not a political element. He should be known as Sourav the sporting icon," Bhattacharya, the BCCI president's longtime family friend, said.
"We should not create pressure on him (for joining politics). I had told Sourav last week he should not join politics and he did not oppose my views," Bhattacharya who visited Ganguly at the hospital said.
Reacting to the former minister's comments, BJP state president Dilip Ghosh said, "Some people see politics in everything due to their sick mindset. Like millions of his fans, we only wish that Sourav recovers fully."
Senior Trinamool Congress leader and state minister Sobhandeb Chatterjee, who also visited the former cricketer at the hospital, said that there had never been any effort to induct Sourav "into our party. We are proud to have him as the icon of sports."
Ganguly's former teammate and state minister Lakshmi Ratan Shukla, TMC MLA and daughter of late BCCI president Jagmohan Dalmiya, Baishali Dalmiya, Uttar Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya and several others also visited him.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar on Saturday visited the hospital to enquire about his health.
Ganguly had met Dhankhar at Raj Bhavan a week back "in a courtesy visit".