Our common plank should be anti-racism: Bhaichung Bhutia
Sitting in a Kalimpong hotel, as party supporters crowded outside, Trinamool's celebrity candidate, footballer Bhaichung Bhutia spoke to HT. Excerpts:india Updated: Mar 23, 2014 20:52 IST
Sitting in a Kalimpong hotel, as party supporters crowded outside, Trinamool's celebrity candidate, footballer Bhaichung Bhutia spoke to HT. Excerpts:
Why did you join politics?
Politics was never new to me. Ask any of my footballer friends, and they hated to stay in my room because I was always watching news channels to follow politics. I was not sure about timing. But I was offered the ticket by CM. My relationship with Mamata Banerjee is very close. What she has achieved single-handedly is inspirational. Without Trinamool Congress, no party can form the government in the 16th Lok Sabha.
The criticism here is you are an outsider, from Sikkim.
I have played football all across India. We have students and people from this region in other cities, and they never treated me as an outsider, but a part of the hills. 40-50% of people here have relatives and friends across the Darjeeling-Sikkim border.
GJM is calling me an outsider, but look what they have done. First they got Jaswant Singh from Rajasthan, and now Mr Ahluwalia. I run a football club, which has four-five players from here.
My coach is from Kalimpong. I have auctioned my Jersey to help cyclone victims. When Prashant Tamang won Indian Idol, the entire hills voted for him. The same happened when I won Jhalak Dhikla Ja. The entire hills voted for me, not just Sikkim.
Trinamool is accused of inciting ethnic politics among Nepalis.
Development has not happened, and there is no basic facility in the hills. GTA is run by GJM, but they have done no work. MP Jaswant Singh has come only three-four times.
One of the reasons why Mamata has started cultural boards is because people can benefit directly. Our main battle in mainland India is to make everyone feel one, and campaign on an anti-racism plank so that people from northeast are not mistreated in Delhi, or north Indians in south India, or south Indians in north India.
You are from the hills. Don't you think the demand for Gorkhaland is valid?
Why did the agitation start? If there is no food, no future for myself and my kids, I am bound to start demanding things. But life has not become better. People are fed up with false promises. We have to tackle the first issue, which is providing basic services and better future.