MUMBAI: In yet another incident of intolerance, Shiv Sena members on Monday barged into the BCCI office here and prevented a meeting between board president Shashank Manohar and Pakistan Cricket Board chief Shahryar Khan.
Khan and PCB executive committee head Najam Sethi had arrived in Mumbai to discuss the resumption of bilateral cricket that is due at the end of the year. Both went to New Delhi in the evening. There was no confirmation if the meeting had been rescheduled. “There is no meeting scheduled. The BCCI will inform the PCB about the date of meeting,” Sethi told Express.
Intriguing was the political drama behind the protest. By evening, it emerged that Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had tacitly backed Sena on this because he wanted Manohar to face trouble in order to settle an old score.
Around 100 Shiv Sena workers gathered around 11 am outside the BCCI headquarters at Wankhede Stadium where Manohar was supposed to meet the PCB delegation. Some workers breached security and stormed into Manohar’s office on the second floor waving black flags. Shouting “Shahryar go back” and “Pakistan murdabad” they were in his office for nearly 20 minutes. Khan, who was in a nearby hotel and yet to reach the venue, flew to New Delhi.
The police did not stop the Sena workers from barging into the BCCI office. With the workers in Manohar’s office, the police waited at the ground floor for them to come down and arrested 10. Police deployment outside the BCCI office was increased after the workers were taken to the police station.
According to a source, developments indicate that Fadnavis, who holds the Home portfolio, knew about the Sena’s intentions two days ago but chose not to stop them.
“Fadnavis and Manohar are from Nagpur. Fadnavis did not like the fact that the Manohars, influential lawyers and close to Sharad Pawar, backed his rivals in local politics. Last week, he made Nagpur-based lawyer Shrihari Aney the Advocate General. It’s well known that Aney belongs to the opposite camp of the Manohars,” the source pointed out. The BJP didn’t react as sharply as it did when Sena had protested against ex-Pakistan minister Khurshid Kasuri.
“We won’t condemn Sena for this. It is their right to protest. Cricket ties between India, Pakistan have been suspended for a long time. It does not make any difference if they are not resumed,” said BJP State spokesperson Madhav Bhandari.
Not surprisingly, the BJP did not react as sharply as it did when Sena workers had protested against former Pakistan Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri last week. “We will not condemn Shiv Sena for this. It is their right to protest. Cricket ties between India and Pakistan have been suspended for a long time. It does not make any difference if they are not resumed,” said State BJP spokesperson Madhav Bhandari.
Additional Commissioner of Police Pratap Dighavkar claimed police deployment at BCCI was adequate. He refused to comment whether they had prior knowledge of the protest. Sena MP Sanjay Raut justified the protest.
“If anyone tries to build relations with Pakistan through the medium of cricket, we will not let that happen or compromise our stand. The BJP needs to come forward and support us on this.”
Fadnavis and Manohar could not be reached for comments. The opposition slammed the Sena for its “abominable” behaviour.
(With inputs from Chennai/Delhi)