Anurag Thakur, MP from Hamirpur, widely seen as a protégé of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, was the national president of Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha
He was the youngest president ever of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). Now he is the youngest chief whip of the Bharatiya Janata Party in the Lok Sabha. Anurag Thakur, MP from Hamirpur, widely seen as a protégé of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, was the national president of Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) — the youth wing of Bharatiya Janata Party. In Parliament, he is a member of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC). Jaitley pledged to rescue the cricketing body from the morass of corruption it had fallen into after match-fixing allegations came to light. So when Thakur took over as BCCI president in 2016, it was amid extensive goodwill.
To be fair, Thakur has done much in the service of cricket. “I inherited only seven chairs, one iron cupboard and a typewriter,” he said of the early days in cricket administration, when he took up development of cricket in Himachal Pradesh. “But, within five years, we built an international stadium in Dharamsala — not only a cricket stadium but one of the most beautiful in the world, and also built five-six other stadiums in the state.”
He has the advantage of setting up a cricket infrastructure where none had existed. So, he is familiar with start-ups. It helped that his father, P K Dhumal, has been CM of the state. Anurag was once the captain of the Under 19 cricket team and aspired to play for the country. He was ready to butt heads with the Shiv Sena when that party said it would not allow Pakistani cricket players to play in India.
However, he was sacked as president of the BCCI in 2017 amid controversial circumstances following the recommendations of the Lodha committee. He faced contempt of court proceedings. Matters came to a head after Chief Justice TS Thakur said: “Prima facie Anurag Thakur committed perjury”, adding that Anurag “ought to absolutely apologise”. As allegations of corruption swirled, rather than be drawn into the vortex of a perjury scandal in the Supreme Court, he decided he could not fight on so many fronts. So he submitted an unconditional apology to the Supreme Court and kept a low profile.
More setbacks were to follow. His father lost his own seat and Jairam Thakur, a bitter rival, became chief minister in Himachal Pradesh in 2017, putting paid to Anurag’s chances of developing into an heir to the political empire his father has built in the state.
But now, things are looking up again. As chief whip, he will have both power and responsibility — outreach to all MPs of the party but also the job of ensuring they behave themselves so that the party is not caught in embarrassing situations of falling short of the quorum. In 2017, at an internal party meeting, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had voiced his dissatisfaction about the percentage of attendance of BJP MPs in both houses.
Always well turned out — he could be a model for What the Well Dressed Man is Wearing — Anurag is taciturn but witty, with a sense of humour that is deadpan. He made it clear who his role model was when he, unaccountably, posed for many selfies with standup comedian Kapil Sharma soon after he became BCCI president. But he will need to be more than just a clothes horse in his new job.