While no clear picture has emerged yet, it would be fair to say that there are two major contenders for the top slot: Ranbir Singh Mahendra and Arun Jaitley. Both men have strong political affiliations. And while Dalmiya can longer be the king, he is all set to play the role of the kingmaker.
Jaitley, a senior leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party and a cabinet minister in the previous government, enjoys a higher personal standing than his rival, but that might not be enough to win him the job if the matter went to vote. Jaitley is learnt to be averse to the idea of risking defeat in an election. At the very least, he would need Dalmiya's unequivocal backing, which would be enough to see him through. But in the absence of a clear word from Dalmiya, Ranbir Singh, currently a vice-president of the board, and the son of Bansi Lal, the former chief minister of Haryana, seems to be a front-runner. He has no qualms about fighting an election.
In the last BCCI election, Dalmiya had defeated AC Muthiah of Tamil Nadu, who, incidentally, had come to office with the backing of Dalmiya, then the president of the ICC. However, Muthiah was denied the customary one-year extension after his two-year term came to an end, as Dalmiya, back from the ICC, forced an election. Dalmiya, of course had no problems in securing an extension for himself.
It is unlikely, however, that Dalmiya will walk into the sunset. A move is afoot already to install him as the patron-in-chief of the cricket board, a provision for which already exists in the constitution of the board. A proposal to this effect was mooted by the Assam Cricket Association at the BCCI working committee meeting last July, and it has been endorsed by several others. It is learnt that the new position would empower Dalmiya to represent BCCI at ICC meetings, and play a prominent role in dealing various rights.
While his detractors see this as a move by Dalmiya to retain a vice-like grip on the board, his supporters point out that the position is well deserved, given his track record. Inarguably, the finances of the BCCI have soared under Dalmiya. When he entered the BCCI as secretary in 1992-93, the board balance sheet showed a deficit of Rs81.60lakh. (Rs1lakh is equal to approximately US$2100, and 100 lakhs make 1 crore.) By the end of the next financial year, the board had declared a working profit of Rs15.34lakh, and today it has a turnover of Rs100crore, which, Dalmiya has predicted, will reach Rs365crore on the back of a three-year television deal in the excess of Rs1000crore.
The stakes have never been higher.
Anand Vasu is assistant editor of Wisden Cricinfo.