Forget KKR-Ganguly debate, where are the other sportstars?
The Kolkata Knight Riders' (KKR) winning the IPL title may be a great achievement for brand 'Kolkata' and Shahrukh Khan, but not all are happy. Following the grand felicitation of the KKR, the team and the franchises, in Kolkata on Tuesday by the state government, the 'leftist' supporters of Sourav Ganguly have raised a fresh issue.
On Wednesday, a social media post was seen slamming the establishment for organising no mega event to felicitate the cricket team of Bengal after it had won the Vijay Hazare Trophy earlier this year under the captaincy of former India captain Sourav Ganguly.
Taking a dig at the state government, one of Ganguly's 'leftist' followers said it did not honour the former captain and his team even though it was a 'purely Bengali team' and not like the KKR, a more diverse unit. Soon the debate spread with other voices chipping in. Some even said that Mamata Banerjee was bent to welcome a privately-owned team, something which the former Left Front government never did. The Governor, M K Narayanan, was not spared either for allegedly saying the KKR victory was indicative of the change that Bengal had witnessed last year.
Earlier, the KKR felicitation event was criticised by veteran CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta. He said he did not consider T20 as any form of cricket and thought the celebration was worthless. Sources said the mega event had cost the state exchequer Rs 45 lakh. Local authorities might have benefitted from the revenue generated by the mega event but yet just organising an extravaganza like that in the Eden Gardens was not acceptable to various quarters. “With such a huge debt on its shoulders, how can the government go overboard like this?” asked a social media subscriber. Left's daily, Ganashakti, said Banerjee and her 'sycophants' shamelessly hijacked the cricketing success to gain political mileage.
Other critics said the government should have come with a modest planning for it was not anything like winning the World Cup but just a domestic club tournament.
The previous day, a pro-government newspaper said Ganguly belongs to the CPI(M) camp and his absence saw the KKR witnessing a change in luck.
The relentless 'tit-for-tat politics' shows to what extent Bengal stands politically polarised on every second issue. The point that Ganguly and his team were not felicitated after they beat Mumbai to lift the Vijay Hazare Trophy is very much logical. The state government, like what did on Tuesday, should have made it equally a grand occasion. But the problem does not lie in sport and is entirely political.
The KKR party was a grand occasion for it reflected the growing partnership between Mamata Banerjee, the CM, and SRK, the brand ambassador of Bengal. In the past also, we had seen the Left Front preferring Sourav Ganguly's application for a land in Kolkata over others and even giving it to him at a much cheaper rate. The case also saw intervention by the court. History only repeats itself in some form.
The Left Front government had also ignored sportspersons. When asked whether the state government would back a budding woman sportsperson, a Left sport minister had once infamously said: “Kicchu laav nei. Chhagol diye ki langol chaash hoy?” (No use. A goat can never plough a field). Bengal boasts of several sporting heroes, many of whom come from very modest background, but mostly remain deprived of any aid. Even cricketers like Laxmi Ratan Shukla, Manoj Tiwari, Asok Dinda, Debabrata Das, do they, despite being cricketers, get a welcome in ordinary times? No.
People like Leander Paes (tennis), Jhulan Goswami (cricket), Jyotirmoyee Sikdar (athletics), Dibyendu Barua (chess) and others have brought India no less honours, and even from places more famous than the cricketing world, but yet they have received peanuts. Grandmaster Barua had once rued that he did not have a plot to start a chess academy, his long-time dream. We have not seen Paes being made part of any significant venture even after the Kolkata boy bagged an Olympic bronze medal, an achievement much bigger than Sourav Ganguly's best performance on the international stage.
Lots of table tennis players also come up from Bengal but they never receive any kind of felicitation even after accomplishing difficult missions.
The problem has not started with Mamata Banerjee. She and her government have just carried the tradition forward. But the debate that Sourav Ganguly was ignored while KKR was not, is an utterly misleading one. The politicians, who love the easy-to-access publicity and rich mutual benefits, have never ignored Ganguly, KKR (read SRK) or the tainted game of cricket.
Who have been ignored are those non-cricketing sporting heroes who never got any chance to get blessed by either of the polarised block. 'Poriborton?' They never had any.