A friend of mine asked me: "Why do politicians get into sports administration?" It got me thinking and this is what I came up with:
Fine administrator: Arun Jaitley
Cricket's popularity has soared in the last 25 years and the popularity of politicians is dwindling. Unfortunately, the role models in politics are quickly becoming extinct and disillusioned followers keep following different leaders when they find that promises are unfulfilled.
Politicians thrive on popularity, and cricket (other sports as well) caters to a mass following. Getting involved in an association also provides easy accessibility to people. After all, sports connects with the masses and some politicians see it as a lifeline. Once they have tasted blood, they keep holding on to the post as that puts them in a position where they can please many, having to spend nothing except their time.
The opportunists in the association induct politicians and ride on their backs to fulfill their hidden agenda of self-promotion. It also helps to boost their business interests. Politicians are good at fighting elections, moving government officials to twist arms, using the age-old Chanakya's formula of "saam, daam, dand & bhed" (policy of getting work done through peaceful negotiation which is saam; by paying money or daam; through punishment which is dand; and/or by creating differences which is bhed)
There were, and are good political leaders, who patronise sports and have contributed to the development of infrastructure. SK Wankhede, Madhavrao Scindia, NKP Salve, Arun Jaitley and Sharad Pawar are names that come to mind immediately. Having interacted with them on many occasions, I have come to admire them for their genuine love for the game and their respect for cricketers.
Today, the game has moved to a higher level in terms of popularity, glamour and finance – the kind which one could never have imagined when we won the World Cup in 1983. Then, the BCCI coffers were bare and our winning bonus came to fruition through a Lata Mangeshkar concert organised by Raj Singh Dungarpur and a contribution from then BCCI president NKP Salve.
BCCI has marketed the game so well that the coffers are now overflowing and many politicians want to cash in on cricket. The question that needs to be asked is, are they coming to contribute or loot? As the Punjabi saying goes, 'jaggery attract flies'.
Some politicians are getting into sports to lift their sagging political careers, to bask in the glory of sporting achievers. Sports, they believe, will keep them visible to voters.
Chetan Chauhan and Anurag Thakur (present BCCI secretary) were cricketers first before becoming politicians and both are working positively for the benefit of the game. Politicians can contribute positively to sports if their intentions are good, but they also have to be careful when opportunists in their associations misuse their name.
At the Mumbai Cricket Association today, the onus is on the voter, who should be smart and courageous to elect those who will contribute to the development of the game.