Rivals in politics, friends in cricket: Mumbai Cricket Association polls witness rainbow coalition

Maharashtra’s politics may have turned vicious in the recent past, but when it comes to cricket, politicians not only adopt a softer approach but ally with an opponent against whom they are fighting a battle for survival.

Jitendra Awhad and Milind Narvekar, man Fridays of two of Maharashtra’s tallest leaders, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar and former Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray respectively, will be fighting for the post of councillor in the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) in the election to be held on October 20 from the Sharad Pawar-Ashish Shelar panel.

Shelar is the president of the Mumbai unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Vihang Sarnaik, son of Chief Minister Eknath Shinde’s aide and MLA Pratap Sarnaik is set to be elected unopposed as the T20 league governing council chief.

Awhad, former housing minister of Maharashtra and NCP MLA, is known as one of the most trusted aides of Pawar. Narvekar, a secretary of Shiv Sena led by Thackeray, has been with the Thackerays for more than two decades as one of his trusted men and someone who has a reputation as a man who “gets things done”.

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The Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government headed by Thackeray which saw an alliance with Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress was dethroned after the rebellion of Eknath Shinde, who later with the BJP’s help formed the government. Since then the relations between the two sides have become so bitter that both sides are making even below-the-belt comments about each other. But last week, CM Shinde and his deputy Devendra Fadnavis held a meeting to meet the members of the Pawar-Shelar camp extending support.

“As an ardent follower of Sharad Pawar, I feel that everything should be compartmentalised. MCA is a body which needs to be run professionally. We are a bunch of people who feel that everything good should be given to cricket as a sport,” Awhad told The Indian Express.

He said that it is not about politics but cricket. “There are many individuals who work for this sport for many years. They might belong to different parties, but ultimately we aim to better the game,” he said.

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Narvekar said that he has been working for Mumbai cricket for many years now. “I have worked as the chairman of the T20 Mumbai league governing council and was also instrumental in establishing the T20 Mumbai league as a launchpad for local talent. We all work closely for this sport and take everybody together to ensure this game grows,” he said.

Shelar, when asked about fighting political sides joining hands for cricket, said that both things should not be mixed. “We do not mix both things. Neither Pawarji did that before nor will it be done now. We stand together for the game,” he said.