Explained: Mohun Bagan's internal politics and sponsorship issue

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The top management of the club met at the tent on Thursday evening to find a consensus, but that remained a distant dream...

Shortly after East Bengal lost their Calcutta Football League (CFL) match against Peerless on Thursday evening, there were mixed feelings among supporters assembled at the Mohun Bagan tent.

The neighbour’s slip-up gave the Mariners a golden chance to bag the local league after eight years but the impasse over their sponsorship issues meant the joy was short-lived.

For the uninitiated, club secretary Anjan Mitra had announced StreamCast as a potential sponsor on Wednesday, but with the club elections impending, many supporters including the opposition camp of Tutu Basu - Srinjoy Basu - Debasish Dutta had shown scepticism about the acceptability of the offer.

The two factions met at the club in the evening and Tutu Basu suggested the offer should be run through Deloitte, an auditor firm part of the so-called 'Big Four.'

'Had it been my company or Anjan's, we would have agreed readily. But for this company, we need to get the offer and financials audited first before committing," Basu told the media.

Basu and Mitra, two classmates in school who grew up watching Bagan matches together and ran the club for almost three decades, have recently seen their friendship strained as the next generation tries to grab a share of the big institution, which despite its falling footballing stocks, retains its importance in Bengali psyche.

Over the last few years, Tutu's son Srinjoy along with Debasish Dutta had taken up the mantle of running the club, earning them an I-League and Federation Cup apiece, but recently Sohini Mitra Chaubey, Mitra's daughter, seems to have regained her stature. The stocks of her husband, former India international Kalyan Chaubey, have also soared.

The Basu camp remains the clear favourites among the club's young fanbase, but for them, unfortunately, only the members will have voting powers when the elections are held. Both Tutu and Mitra had ensured that mostly their loyalists get to be members of the club and now with them at loggerheads, it can turn out to be a close contest.

While the Basus have earlier been Rajya Sabha members from West Bengal's ruling Trinamool Congress, the Mitra camp has also shed its apolitical colour to lure Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's brother Swapan Banerjee, who has almost become the club's spokesperson and a ubiquitous face in no time.

Only a couple of years ago, in the last election,  these two camps fought together to thwart a formidable challenge thrown by a motley crew of well-known personalities, led by the club's most successful player Subrata Bhattacharya and Padmashree winning scientist Bimal Roy. But all that has now been forgotten and the daggers are out.

It's hard to tell whether the sponsorship proposal is actually authentic or an election gimmick, but once again the off-field activities have taken the centre-stage at India's oldest major football club.

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