Kolkata: BCCI president and former Indian cricket team caption Sourav Ganguly triggered much speculation in poll-bound West Bengal Sunday as he met Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar at Raj Bhavan in Kolkata.
Often on the warpath with the Mamata Banerjee-led state government, the Raj Bhavan under Dhankhar is described by the Trinamool Congress as the “state office of the BJP”. BJP leaders, meanwhile, admit that they have tried to bring in Ganguly on many occasions but never succeeded.
However, Ganguly said it was just a “courtesy visit”. Even the BJP denied Sunday’s meeting had any political connotations.
Accepted his offer for a visit to Eden Gardens, oldest cricket ground in the country established in 1864. pic.twitter.com/tB3Rtb4ZD6
— Governor West Bengal Jagdeep Dhankhar (@jdhankhar1) December 27, 2020
Talking to the media after the meeting, Ganguly said he had visited the Raj Bhavan at Dhankhar’s invitation. “I had never been to Raj Bhavan. He assumed office almost a year ago, but he has never visited Eden Gardens either. So, he wanted to talk, and if the state’s governor called, I had to go,” he added. “We only spoke about games, there was no other discussion. He wants to visit Eden Gardens, which we will arrange.”
Stating that the visit was a “courtesy call”, BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya added that a formal meeting between the governor of a state and a national icon should not be looked at as a “political development”. “None of them is a political person. It is a courtesy visit,” he added.
The visit comes months ahead of a crucial assembly election where the BJP is looking to score its maiden victory in the state. While even the Trinamool Congress has denied that Sunday’s meeting is likely to have had any political significance, political analysts said the timing suggested otherwise.
For several years now, there has been speculation about Ganguly’s possible association with the BJP, but he is believed to have “not shown much interest” in joining politics.
Several senior and central BJP leaders have met Ganguly but he has never been forthcoming, and has cited professional assignments and occupational issues, a top BJP leader told ThePrint.
Analysts, however, point out that Ganguly’s visit to the Raj Bhavan comes nearly 17 months after the governor took office and four months before the election.
“We cannot rule out the possibility of Sourav Ganguly joining the BJP. There has been an effort by BJP leaders to rope in Dada as an acclaimed Bengali face,” said Prof Biswanath Chakraborti, a Kolkata-based political analyst.
“Moreover, there are instances that indicate his alignment. He is seen as close to (Home Minister) Amit Shah (whose son is BCCI secretary). During PM Modi’s address before Durga Puja, his wife Dona Ganguly (a noted Odissi dancer) performed in the programme,” he added.
The timing of the meeting triggers speculation, said Prof Partha Pratim Biswas, another analyst. “Raj Bhavan is called the BJP’s state headquarters by the Trinamool. In fact, the governor is not perceived as an apolitical person here. If Ganguly had to make a courtesy call, why didn’t he do that in so many months ? Why now?”
The Trinamool Congress, however, claimed it was confident that Ganguly is not joining the BJP. “Sourav Ganguly is a Bengali icon. He met the governor today. We do not expect any political discussion there,” said Trinamool MP Saugata Roy.
“We know that there has been an attempt to make the project the election as a ‘Didi vs Dada’ fight, but we think Sourav Ganguly is prudent enough to not fall in the trap laid by the BJP. It is just a matter of optics,” he added.