Ace footballer and politician Bhaichung Bhutia in an exclusive interview to India Legal’s sister concern APN tells about his newly formed party Hamro Sikkim and future plans. Excerpts:
Q: You started your political career from West Bengal and not from your hometown.
A: I lived in Kolkata for the last 20 years. And after retirement, this opportunity came… For me it was a good experience. Obviously it was a difficult place to fight for especially when you are fighting for TMC and in Darjeeling for different issues. But it was a good learning process.
Q: So you decided to join politics back then?
A: It wasn’t a planned thing. I had been there and I played there. I wasn’t prepared… But decided to fight.
Q: You have been very vocal about the Gorkhaland agitation. You have said that a separate Gorkhaland is necessary to resolve the hill problem. Do you still stand by that?
A: I do stand by it. As a TMC leader, I did raise the issue. But the Gorkhaland issue is yet not resolved. Now people in the hills have to re-think and maybe they will think of a Union territory. As a TMC leader, I also reiterated that they need to build a relationship with Bengali intellectuals. You can’t get statehood by doing one-month violent strike. You need to change because there is a lot of violence in it. And the agitation has not succeeded in getting a separate state. They need to change the strategy.
Q: You have launched a party Hamro Sikkim on May 31…
A: I think the party will survive. It is something different which we want to give the people of Sikkim. One man rules everything and controls everything for the last 20 years. You got party president (same person), chief minister (same person), home minister (same person), finance minister (same person). So I think one single person wants to control everything. That’s what we want to change… We want to change the system… So we have decided that in our party no single person will have more than two terms as CM, MLA and even as panchayat member. The two-term policy has worked well in USA. We want to bring it in Sikkim as well. We want to give more opportunities to young leadership. Our party’s aim is to produce good leaders. At the moment, Chamlingji has not able to produce one single leader.
The party has a great future. We hope to emerge as a powerful force in Sikkim’s polity where no party can form a government without our support. I am sure a time will come when we will attain majority and form a government.
Q: What about women’s reservation?
A: We would love to have more and more women leaders in the party. I personally hope that one day Sikkim should be ruled by women. We need to have a CM who is a woman. Women would be more committed and honest. Today Sikkim is the most corrupt state in the country.
Q: One of your party’s party agenda is to ensure 24-hour continuous electricity supply.
A: I think Sikkim has the potential to supply 24-hour continuous electricity…
Q: What is the current political scenario in the Northeast?
A: Well the political landscape of the Northeast has undergone a dramatic change in the last two years or so. People are more concerned about development. Corruption has played havoc with the system. As far as Sikkim is concerned, people want a change, they want development, they want peace.
Q: You are considered as a torchbearer of Indian football in the global arena. What is the future of football in India? Can we ever hope to play World Cup?
A: It will take time. It is a global sport, a difficult sport. Even a country like China which has pumped in huge amounts of money and done everything to improve the standard of the game in line with global standards has not played a World Cup. They too are still struggling.