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Jagmohan Dalmiya has been elected president of the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB), a position from which he was unseated in December 2006 following charges of embezzlement. Dalmiya, a former president of both the ICC and the BCCI, defeated the incumbent, Prasun Mukherjee, to secure a seat on the Indian board.
Dalmiya won by 71 votes to 47, an overwhelming margin for someone virtually out of cricket for the past 18 months. His supporters also swept the polls for the other positions, including those of secretary and treasurer.
"Cricket in the state needs me, that's why I'm back," Dalmiya told the Telegraph, a Kolkata-based daily. "I'll require a couple of days to sit down with colleagues and then chalk out plans. Initially, I wanted to make a comeback so that I could emerge without a blemish, but that changed once Bengal got relegated to the Plate Division in the Ranji Trophy. Nothing personal is a priority. Today, there's much work to do."
The election has created interest far beyond Kolkata, because of Dalmiya's bitter and long-running rivalry with the current BCCI administration. The charges of embezzlement - relating to the 1996 World Cup, and for which he was arrested before being released on bail - were levelled by the BCCI after Sharad Pawar took over as president. Dalmiya had used his casting vote to help his nominee, Ranbir Singh Mahendra, defeat Pawar in the BCCI presidential election in 2004. On Tuesday night, Pawar said Dalmiya's win was an "internal matter".
Mukherjee - Dalmiya's opponent in this election - had been part of Pawar's camp within the board. The last time the two fought each other in an election, in 2006, Mukherjee had the backing of Pawar and the state's chief minister but lost to Dalmiya by one vote. The embezzlement charge led to Dalmiya being expelled from the BCCI and forced to resign from the CAB post, which then fell to Mukherjee.
Dalmiya challenged the expulsion in the Kolkata High Court and, in July 2007, the court stayed the decision and allowed him to contest elections. The stay came too late for last year's CAB elections but his return to the fray this year was always on the cards.
Dalmiya's campaign was helped by a general decline in Bengal cricket, of which the lowest point was the Ranji team's relegation from the Elite group. The Mukherjee administration had also seen several glitches, the most glaring and embarrassing being during the first IPL match at Eden Gardens, when the floodlights failed. Mukherjee had suffered a personal embarrassment too several months ago when he was forced to step down as the city's police chief following a controversial murder case.
Mukherjee, however, said the result was unexpected. "The members wanted Dalmiya back and this mandate is overwhelmingly in his favour," Mukherjee said. "I have nothing to say and I congratulate Dalmiya and wish him all the best.
"But this result is unexpected for me and I have not really understood why this happened. I don't want to go into the reasons."
Since his ouster from the CAB in 2006, Dalmiya spent time fighting various legal battles relating to cricket; apart from the embezzlement case, being heard in a Mumbai metropolitan court, he has filed perjury charges against Pawar, his successor Shashank Manohar and BCCI secretary Niranjan Shah. He has also been the subject of investigations by the state government over irregularities in his tannery business.
The Dalmiya panel: Jagmohan Dalmiya (president), Biswarup Dey, Arun Mitra (joint-secretaries), Samar Kar, Shib Kumar Kalyani, Shibaji Dutta (vice-presidents), Bablu Ganguly (treasurer).