Not possible to keep politics out of any aspect of Indian life: Bhaichung Bhutia
Former India captain reacts after losing 33-1 to Kalyan Chaubey in AIFF elections
The fight becomes unequal when political heavyweights throw their might behind a candidate, Jagmohan Dalmiya said after his man had lost the elections to the president’s post in the Indian cricket board. For a man outmanoeuvred from the organisation he had helped grow, Dalmiya sounded calm during the long walk from the hall where the elections were held that 2005 December evening to the exit of the five-star hotel in Kolkata.
Almost 17 years later, Bhaichung Bhutia took the Dalmiya quote one step further. “It is just not possible to keep politics out of any aspect of Indian life. That may be sad but it is true and as Indians we need to accept it,” said the former India captain and the country’s most decorated former footballer after losing 33-1 to Kalyan Chaubey in the elections to the post of the president of the All India Football Federation (AIFF).
Bhutia, 45, was reacting to reports of a Union minister visiting voters late on Thursday. Officials from 34 states eligible to vote were put up at a hotel in Dwarka near New Delhi by AIFF. The minister met most of them, according to an AIFF official. The official did not wish to be named given the sensitive nature of the issue.
Former players both, Bhutia and Chaubey belong to political parties. Unlike Chaubey, who is a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Bhutia’s Hamro Sikkim Party is regional. Since filing a fresh nomination for the president’s post on August 25, Bhutia had asked to keep the elections free from political interference.
Bhutia said he knew the task before him was “humongous.” “But I had thought two or three would fight for the post of the president. Like they had when I had sought to fight as an eminent player. But no one did and that was when political interference became obvious.”
Returning the phone call from HT, Bhutia sounded calm. “First of all, I would like to thank all the fans of Indian football who supported me. And I would like to congratulate Kalyan I hope Indian football grows with him in charge,” he said.
He laughed when asked if he was disappointed with the verdict. “I am not disappointed. I wanted to serve Indian football, wanted to give back, but I wasn’t given the opportunity. That said, I will continue to work for and with football.”
Asked if he would want to be co-opted to the AIFF executive committee, Bhutia said: “I am not ready to think about it now.” As a player with the most international appearances, Bhutia is an automatic choice. Four male players and two women players will be part of the new AIFF executive committee which will have 23 members.