BAICHUNG Bhutia Plunges Into Politics

BHAICHUNG Bhutia, an Indian retired footballer of Sikkimese-Bhutia descent, says he had no other alternative but to quit ruling TMC led by Mamata Banerjee as he was being treated like a foreigner. Bhutia, who captained India in the soccer world besides playing for the JCT Mills, Kolkata based iconic Mohun Bagan and East Bengal Club among others before hanging his boots, was speaking at a media conference at the Press Club of India in New Delhi. Bhutia,41, acknowledged as the torchbearer of Indian football in the international arena, was replying to queries by journos about joining the new regional ‘Hamro Sikkim Party’. Elections for the 32-Member Sikkim Legislative Assembly and one Lok Sabha seat from the Himalayan State will be held in the first quarter of 2019. “I did not agree with TMC’s stand on Gorkhaland issue and that is my personal decision. I stand with what I have said,” Bhutia said candidly. There is substantial presence of people belonging to Bhutia community in North Bengal including Darjeeling besides Sikkim.”With TMC, I was more like a celebrity than a candidate dropped from the top. There was an outsider tag when I fought elections from Darjeeling. Even if I went for a seat outside my state, I would feel like an outsider,” Bhutia said. In February this year, Bhutia announced on Twitter his resignation from TMC which he had joined in 2013.But TMC leaders mocked his announcement saying his resignation would have no impact on the TMC at all. Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee had recently met his Sikkimese counterpart Pawan Kumar Chamling, 67, and both allayed their perception about each other. Landlocked Sikkim is most affected by the Gorkhaland agitation. Bhutia said “I could not commit fully towards my party because I was travelling for professional purposes. I think it was unfair for me to be in a party where I could not give my full commitment. And politics is all about being with people and now I can do that,” the Arjuna Award recipient added. Analysts assert that difference between Bhutia and TMC deepened during the 104-day Darjeeling turmoil. Bhutia had gone against the party and extended his support for the separate state of Gorkhaland. There is substantial presence of people belonging to Bhutia community in North Bengal including Darjeeling besides Sikkim. In 2014, Bhutia contested the Lok Sabha elections from Darjeeling as a TMC but lost to BJP’s S.S. Ahluwalia. In 2016, he contested the Assembly elections from Siliguri and was defeated by CPI-M’s Ashok Bhattacharya. Asked what made him join a new political party, Bhutia said he wanted to contribute to develop the state and realised joining a regional party will be the best step.”I want to work for the people of Sikkim. I hope my joining politics will inspire a lot of youth, not just in Sikkim but across the country,” he said. The Padma Shri winner also highlighted that Sikkim was overshadowed by corruption and that one of the major focus of the newly-formed party would be demanding CBI probes.”The state is overshadowed by corruption and as per law; CBI cannot carry any investigation in Sikkim. Unemployment is another major issue. We are claiming to be an organic state but we are losing our land to pharmaceutical companies. Our target is to bring some solutions to these issues,” he said.Bhutia further said that he was not bothered about becoming the chief ministerial candidate nor eyeing the party presidentship.”It’s too early to say whether I will contest or not. If the party tells me I will contest.”  Anyway in the coming days, Bhutia, who remains India’s most capped International footballer, and has opened Baichung Bhutia Football Schools in Delhi, is likely to be keenly watched as assembly and LS polls are approaching.

Around two months after quitting Mamata Banerjees Trinamool Congress (TMC), former Indian footballer Bhaichung Bhutia on Thursday announced he had joined the new regional ‘Hamro Sikkim Party’, saying that he felt like an outsider in TMC.

“With TMC, I was more like a celebrity than a candidate dropped from the top. There was an outsider tag when I fought elections from Darjeeling. Even if I went for a seat outside my state, I would feel like an outsider,” Bhutia said while addressing a media conference at the Press Club.In February, Bhutia announced on Twitter his resignation from TMC which he had joined in 2013.

“I could not commit fully towards my party because I was travelling for professional purposes. I think it was unfair for me to be in a party where I could not give my full commitment. And politics is all about being with people and now I can do that,” the Arjuna Award recipient added.The difference between Bhutia and TMC deepened during the 104-day Darjeeling strife. Bhutia had gone against the party and extended his support for the separate state of Gorkhaland.”I did not agree with TMC’s stand on Gorkhaland issue and that is my personal decision. I stand with what I have said,” Bhutia, who used to play for East Bengal club, noted.

In 2014, Bhutia contested the Lok Sabha elections from Darjeeling but lost to BJP’s S.S. Ahluwalia. In 2016, he contested the Assembly elections from Siliguri and was defeated by CPI-M’s Ashok Bhattacharya.Asked what made him join a new political party, Bhutia said he wanted to contribute in developing the state and realised joining a regional party will be the best step.”I want to work for the people of Sikkim. I hope my joining politics will inspire a lot of youth, not just in Sikkim but across the country,” he said.

The Padma Shri winner also highlighted that Sikkim was overshadowed by corruption and that one of the major focus of the newly-formed party would be demanding CBI probes.”The state is overshadowed by corruption and as per law, CBI cannot carry any investigation in Sikkim. Unemployment is another major issue. We are claiming to be an organic state but we are losing our land to pharmaceutical companies. Our target is to bring some solutions to these issues,” he stated.

Bhutia also said that he was not bothered about becoming the chief ministerial candidate nor eyeing the party presidentship.

“It’s too early to say whether I will contest or not. If the party tells me I will contest,” he mentioned.

Apart from Lok Sabha elections, Sikkim will also hold Assembly elections in 2019..(image courtesy : The Pioneer).

 

 

 

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