Mumbai: Bhaichung Bhutia has been a prominent face of Indian football for over a decade. The Sikkim-born footballer is considered to be the torchbearer of Indian Football due to his remarkable playing career. However, Bhutia's journey took a different path when he ventured into politics.
In May 2018, Bhutia ploughed his pitch in Sikkim’s politics by launching Hamro Sikkim (Our Sikkim) Party. Contesting its debut election, HSP fielded candidates for both the state and national elections.
Now the big question is: Would he be able to score a magnificent goal in the field of politics too?
In an exclusive interview with Deccan Chronicle, here is what the former captain has to say on leading the state.
From the world of football to politics, how do you gauge your journey?
A lot can be drawn into politics from the word of sports. Politics is also about ‘service to’ and ‘sacrifice for’ the nation. My friends and I, we all came together to form the party that can make an impact and shape the society. There was a need for a new political party in Sikkim and hence Hamro was formed, to serve the purpose.
What were the main issues in Sikkim that compelled you to form the party?
There were many issues that were bothering me. Corruption, second highest unemployment rate, high consumption of alcohol and drugs among the youth and bad governance. These issues were never addressed and tackled properly by the current regime and we wish to change it. We would also be working on improving the state of sports in Sikkim.
What is Pawan Kumar Chamling not doing right?
Exactly the issues that compelled me to enter Sikkim politics. Chamling failed in all these spheres. His party is in power for the past 25 years and was not even able to provide basic amenities to the people of Sikkim. People are looking for the change and we will bring that.
Do you think Chamling is not able to tackle corruption as it is deeply rooted in his own party?
It is definitely benefiting them. I can say so because of the huge money that has been used in the elections. Number of politicians he brought from Opposition and money was distributed.
Money power and muscle power are something that SDF is using to allure the voters of Sikkim.
Why did you leave an established party (TMC) and start HSP?
Sikkim is where I belong, where I stay, my family is here. Bengal politics was something with which I’m not connected at the grassroots level. So when you start in politics, you need to start and relate with the people of the state.
Seven members left your party, has it weakened it?
We cannot help that. They were bought, they were big names and this is the kind of politics that we are trying to change. It was our mistake that we allowed senior-ex officers to be part of our party. We regret it.
This is the reason that we are trying to bring in the youth, new and clean leaders into our politics. Our main idea is to make it a youth party which works woman empowerment. Our president is a 35-year-old Sikkimese, MBBS topper -- Beena Basnett.
Do you find any similarities between football and politics?
There are loads of similarities between the two. At both the places you need to have strong and trusted people in your team, who have a complete understanding of the subjects.
In a team, we need great players, However, sometimes they disrupt the unity. So you need to be careful with the choice. Just like our Opposition party. They have big leaders but they are all sold out. So sometimes, big names, big brand, experienced people in politics are not right and good for your party.
Why do you consider yourself as the challenger to the regime? What makes you stand out?
‘ Our party’ helps me to stand out. We are a clean and young party.
The main benefit for us in the Sikkim politics is -- weak Opposition. The Opposition is not competent.
Only on surface level they look like Opposition, but they all same, their roots are same as that of the ruling party. We are the next best alternative for the people of Sikkim. Every day we are leaving our strong footprints and growing eventually.
Why did you not plan to stitch an alliance with the regional parties?
They all are the same. If you look at the Sikkim Krantikari Morcha's president P S Golay, he recently came out from jail. Golay was convicted for corrupt practices during his tenure as a minister for animal husbandry. He faced corruption charges in fodder scam.
Ours is a clean party, if we tied ourselves with these people then we will sabotage our vision.
So many sports people are joining politics, do you look at it as a good trend?
Yes, indeed a very good trend. That is because they play fair; with hard-work and sincerity. They also know how to respect Opposition? Due to all of these reasons, I strongly feel that more and more sports personalities should join Indian politics.
How do you rate the chances of your Opposition winning?
I think, in Opposition SKM has a good chance of winning and anti-incumbency will help them win.
So, where do you see yourself in this equation?
We are at our initial stage. We are building awareness and addressing the right issues; we will eventually be benefited because of our hard work.
Who will be the chief minister candidate from HSP?
We have not fielded Chief Minister candidate. We have fielded 23 seats out of 32, That’s enough for now. as we would be fighting against big parties like Congress, BJP, Sikkim Krantikari Morcha, Sikkim Democratic Front.
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