Bengal is badly divided now. It is election time, and though in more than ninety percent of booths polling so far remained peaceful, some cases of violence are being reported every day. Hindu-Muslim, outsider-bhumiputra, Bengali-non-Bengali, appeal to gherao the central forces, there is no dearth of divisive issues in the campaigns either. The nerves are frayed, no doubt.
But now, IPL will bring some relief to the Bengalis. It will work as a cementing factor, as only one team (Kolkata Knight Riders) from Bengal is there in this cricket league. And it is Dada’s team. Dada, as Saurav Ganguly is known all over India, is a pride of Bengal, for he captained the Indian team. That was a rare feat for a Bengali.
Today, KKR will be playing its first match of the season. If it wins the match, the interest will grow further. If it loses, the spirits will be dampened.
Saurav Ganguly has not joined the BJP as was being speculated for months, and so he still remains a uniting factor in divided Bengal. Due to KKR, for another six weeks, the whole of Bengal will be glued to the TV at least on the days the ‘Bengal team’ will play.
Earlier, the Indian Super League (ISL) also used to act as a cementing factor, as ATK (Atlético de Kolkata) was the only team from Bengal in the league. But now ATK has become ATK-Mohan Bagan, and East Bengal has entered this year as the second team from Bengal. So, the many-decade-old rivalry between the ‘ghoti’ (original people of West Bengal) and ‘bangal’ (those who came from East Pakistan before or after the partition) has now been shifted to all-India stage.
In fact, now cricket has become more popular than football in Bengal, thanks to Dada. And fortunately, in the cricket ground, or even in the football ground, there is no divisive factor like Hindu-Muslim or outsider-bhumiputra. Dilip Doshi, a Marathi, was a proud possession of Bengal as he played for Bengal. The Bengalis were very happy when he was inducted in the Indian team late in his career. The same was the case with Arun Lal. Even now Mohammad Shami is considered ‘our man’ as he represents Bengal.
“If politics could have been like the fields of cricket or football, our lives would have been so better,” says Prabhat Roy, a resident of Calcutta and an ardent supporter of KKR. So true! Roy used to be present in every match KKR played in Eden Gardens. This year he feels poor as like the last year the matches will have no spectators. “Why it’s so when in political rallies thousands and lakhs of people are gathering freely,” questions Roy. Any answer?
(The author Diptendra Raychaudhuri is a senior journalist based in Kolkata. He has a wide range of experience in covering West Bengal politics and has authored several books)