Shiv Sena politics on cricket pitch


By Tarun Pratap

Around a hundred Shiv Sainiks barged into the BCCI headquarters forcing the scheduled meeting between BCCI head Shashank Manohar and his PCB counterpart Shaharyar Khan to be called off.

India-Pakistan cricket rivalry has been one of the most intense sporting rivalries ever. These matches have always been played under the huge pressure and expectations of respective countrymen.

The first test match between both countries was played during October 16-19, 1952 in Delhi. With the countries torn apart by political strife and wars in recent times, cricketing ties have been intermittent. However, that only increased the intensity of the rivalry.

This rivalry took another step in the modern era. In the 90s, ODI cricket grew popular and both countries won a World Cup each. Cricket had advanced to the television now, which multiplied the numbers of people watching the game.

This was also the phase when insurgency started and whenever there were any terror attacks from Pakistan, India suspended the cricket ties as well; be it the 2001 parliament attack, the 2008 Mumbai attack or the latest political tensions.

In 1991, Shiv Sena dug up the Wankhede pitch just before the ODI match and as a result, Pakistan canceled the next three tours. Finally in 1999, when the Pakistan team came to India after 12 years, Shiv Sena still protested but PM Vajpayee himself assured security and the series went on without trouble. Shiv Sena dug up the Kotla pitch this time.

On October 19, 2015, Shiv Sena targeted BCCI Chief Shashank Manohar. The ease with which some people just barged into the BCCI headquarters is an alarming issue. Even more alarming is the fact that all the attackers got released on bail.

This leads us to ask: Who is running Mumbai: Maharashtra Government or Shiv Sena?

Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut said, “Whatever they are doing, it is the people’s will, and it is in the national interest”. On the other hand Anurag Thakur, BCCI secretary, who is also a BJP MP, condemned it and said cricket won’t take place until both the governments allow it, so there was no point in going after BCCI.

Shiv Sena is, apparently, looking for publicity. If they think India should not have any ties with Pakistan, which is not entirely wrong, then they should protest against the Central government for granting visa to Shaharyar Khan. Shiv Sena targeting BCCI is just a show of power.

How can Shiv Sena claim that they are following the nation’s will? A thousand people or so, marching and protesting, don’t make any nation, let alone India.

It has been Shiv Sena’s habit to create nuisance. With the ongoing Bihar elections, the party seems determined to hurt BJP’s image. The Sudheendra Kulkarni incident, followed by this BCCI fiasco shows the intentions of Shiv Sena.

Shiv Sena said that they always followed their policy of ‘intense nationalism’ whether they were in government or in opposition. This statement speaks of carelessness towards governance and a thought process that they were, somehow, custodians of Indian nationalism.

This statement and recent moves by Shiv Sena have hurt BJP like never before.

Arun Jaitley sent a stern message that these actions were not acceptable. He said that there was no space for violence in a democracy. He said Shiv Sena should engage in debate, not in vandalism.

In recent times, the BJP and NCP chief Shard Pawar have cozied up towards each other. A few days ago, Jaitley attended the function in Baramati organized by NCP where he praised Pawar for Baramati model. Perhaps, this is a way for Shiv Sena to remind BJP about their clout.

BJP has to get a hold of their allies. The 2014 general elections were the first instance in 30 years when a party achieved majority on its own and that was because voters wanted a government that can take decisions without pressure, a government that is stable.

On one hand, the BJP government is trying to woo investors and open markets, and on the other, their allies like Shiv Sena are dragging them back.

Any act like this weakens India’s image on the world stage. As a precautionary measure, ICC had to withdraw Pakistani umpire Aleem Dar before the last ODI match between India and South Africa which is scheduled to be held in Mumbai. Former Pakistani cricketers, Shoaib Akhtar and Wasim Akram, were pulled out of the commentary team because of security reasons. India might not be a super power in the world yet but it is definitely so in world cricket. These incidents hurt India’s image big time.

India is the host for the upcoming T20 World Cup in 2016. If such atmosphere doesn’t wane away, it would hurt India’s revenue as well as popularity as a cricketing nation. Pakistan is yet to come out of international rejection after the 2009 terror attacks on the Sri Lankan cricket team.

It is the government’s job to ensure safety of visitors, once they are invited. If Ghulam Ali is given visa to perform, the government should be responsible for the security arrangements. Either, end the cultural ties with Pakistan as a state policy, or stop these Shiv Sena hooligans from disrupting the peace of nation in the name of nationalism.