KOLKATA: Amid speculations that the BJP wants former India captain Sourav Ganguly to drive its fortunes in the upcoming West Bengal assembly elections, his former teammate and the saffron party's nominee from Moyna seat, Ashok Dinda, feels that the BCCI president would "clean bowl" the ruling TMC if he makes the much-anticipated move of joining the BJP.
Though Ganguly has been reportedly linked with the BJP since he became the BCCI president in October 2019, the most popular sports figure from West Bengal has not yet made any political commitments.
Well aware of Ganguly''s leadership acumen, former West Bengal pace spearhead Dinda, who is fighting from the Moyna constituency in Purba Medinipur district, said the BJP desperately wants ''Dada'' to join the party.
"Clean bowled hoe jabe (TMC will be clean bowled)... If he (Ganguly) joins, we are not looking at just crossing the 200-mark; even (full seats of) 294 is possible," Dinda, who has played 13 ODIs and nine T20Is, told PTI in an interview.
"Of course, we want Dada to join the BJP, because if he comes, it will be a landslide victory for us," he said.
West Bengal''s second-highest wicket-taker after Utpal Chatterjee, Dinda was inducted into the BJP on February 24, almost three weeks after he called it quits having played for Goa in his last domestic appearance.
Dinda will fight Trinamool Congress's Sangram Kumar Dolai, a sitting legislator since 2016.
Battling on a new pitch, Dinda said he wants ''Dada'' to remain by his side even during his new innings.
"I want Dada to remain beside me, all my life. In good or bad times, he has always stood by me. Here, I have found another Dada (Suvendu Adhikari), but I want my cricket field's Dada to be with me as well," Dinda, who has 420 first-class wickets in a career spanning 14 years, said.
Asked whether he has spoken to Ganguly after joining politics, Dinda said, "It's been a busy few days. I have not been able to talk even to my family. But I know he is with me even if I have not spoken to him of late."
Ganguly, who is recovering from post-angioplasty after minor heart attacks, has recently played down the speculation of him joining BJP, saying, "We will see where it goes, what opportunities come in the way, we will take it from there."
A fiery pacer during his heydays, Dinda, who hails from Noichunpur village in Moyna seat, chose politics as he found it the best way to serve the people of Moyna.
"I have joined politics as this is the best platform to serve the people by being a part of the system. Honesty and hard work have always been my forte. I never made any false promises. I want to put in the same effort that had made me a cricketer," the 36-year-old said.
Moyna assembly constituency will go to polls in the second phase on April 1.
Dinda said though politics is a different challenge, but being a sportsperson, he is strong-willed.
"On the field, you have full control over your performance. Here you have to be with the people, understand their feelings, solve their problems. Rivals will try different means to stop you, but you have to keep working hard, so it's definitely challenging. Sports has taught me how to tackle pressure and be mentally strong," he said.
Asked what made him join the saffron party, he said, "BJP is a national party and one of the world's largest parties. It has a vision. It is not corrupt. It is a party with a vision and the only platform for doing social work and serving the people."
Dinda said like Ganguly has been his cricket idol, Adhikari is his mentor in politics.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has left her Bhowanipore seat in Kolkata to contest her former lieutenant and BJP candidate Suvendu Adhikari in Nandigram seat in the district, where an anti-land acquisition movement catapulted the TMC to power in the state in 2011.
Adhikari, a former minister in Banerjee''s cabinet, joined the BJP in December last year at a rally of Union Home Minister Amit Shah in Medinipur.
Dinda said Adhikari''s party hopping is justified as he had no choice after being reduced to a "lamp post".
"If the party doesn''t let you work and reduces you to a mere lamp post, it obviously becomes tough. Why deprive someone if he is willing to work? I have closely seen Suvendu da since the Nandigram days. There was bloodshed everywhere and how he worked to restore sanity. He will always be my idol in politics," Dinda said.
Dinda''s vision is to turn his constituency to ''Sonar Moyna'' (golden Moyna), with a primary focus on healthcare.
"The health facilities in Moyna are really in bad shape. There is no infrastructure, no equipment. People of this area face a lot of difficulties in case of a health issue, and have to either go to Tamluk or Kolkata for treatment," he said.
He also wants to improve English medium education in Moyna and plans to establish a school-cum-sports academy in the district.
"There are no good English medium schools, even though the region has a high literacy rate. We need good English medium schools. It has been my dream since 2014 to build a good school and I have also bought land for the purpose," he said.
Dinda also wants to generate employment for over 40,000 migrant workers from Moyna.
"If I can generate employment for them by establishing industries here, I can turn the constituency into ''Sonar Moyna'' like Modiji''s vision of Sonar Bangla (golden Bengal)," he said.
Dinda, however, said he will also remain associated with cricket.
"Cricket is my bread and butter. I have plans to establish a sports academy for cricket and football," he signed off.
Elections to the 294-member assembly will be held in eight phases from March 27 to April 29. Results will be declared on May 2.