Former Indian football captain Bhaichung Bhutia is returning to his roots to launch a new political party. Photo: Hindustan Times
Former Indian football captain Bhaichung Bhutia is returning to his roots to launch a new political party. On Wednesday, at Daramdin in west Sikkim, Bhutia will formally inaugurate his party to take on India’s longest serving chief minister, Pawan Kumar Chamling. In an interview, Bhutia, 41, said the youth in Sikkim is disenchanted with Chamling, and that he is looking to lead them in a drive for change.
Why are you launching this party?
The aim is to motivate the youth to join politics. Rampant corruption is driving young people from politics in Sikkim. But Sikkim’s politics will change only if good people come into it. To say politics is dirty isn’t enough—we need to get into the system to change it.
Taking on Chamling, who has ruled for 25 years, will surely be difficult…
It isn’t about how long he has ruled. What is important is what he has done to the state. During the 25 years of his rule, Sikkim has become one of the most corrupt states. It has the second-highest rate of unemployment, and the community stands divided.
There are some 30-32 hydroelectric projects under implementation in Sikkim, all ridden with corruption. Chamling is lately promoting organic farming without conducting any study of its viability. Sikkim has very little cultivable land—say, only around 10-12%—of which Chamling has given away large chunks to pharmaceutical companies to set up factories and for power projects.
You spoke of the community being divided…
The Lepchas, Bhutias and Nepalis were the three main tribes of Sikkim. But because of Chamling’s communal and divisive politics, there are now 15-20 distinct communities. The Nepali people, for instance, are divided based on caste.
How do you plan to take on the mighty chief minister?
The youth in Sikkim sees Chamling as a dictator: anyone who speaks up is silenced. The people of Sikkim now want change. Unemployment is a major factor, and the youth is ready to join the movement for change.
Aren’t you a little late in launching this party?
It could have been a little earlier, but I am happy that I am doing this with experience in politics. I learnt a lot from my time with the Trinamool Congress.
What went wrong for you at the Trinamool Congress?
Nothing, but I think I was always seen as an outsider, which wasn’t unusual. I would have thought the same way if I were forced to vote for an outsider in my own constituency.
How do you plan to reach out to the people?
In the past two months, I have travelled extensively. I have covered 60-70% of the state already. We still have 8-9 months before facing elections. So, hopefully, by the time the elections are upon us, we will have reached out to the entire state and will be able to field candidates with winning chances in all the 32 seats.
What will be your role in the party?
I am one of the founding members. My intention is not to be its president. We will find someone respectable with a clean track record to be its president.
The party will be run by an executive board. The idea is to make sure that party is not controlled by one person. Also, we will have a two-term policy, which means a legislator can remain a legislator for only up to two terms.
And finally, we will make sure that all the tribes and communities have adequate representation in our party.