her Trinamool Congress for the Lok Sabha polls, promised to work for the development of the hills and serve pople with honesty. –
Hours after he was announced as the Trinamool candidate from Darjeeling for the forthcoming general elections, Bhaichung told IANS that he was grateful to Banerjee.
“It is a great honour for me and I am grateful to Ms Banerjee for giving me this opportunity to contest the general elections. I hope to work hard for the people with
honest and transparency,” the Sikkim boy told IANS here.
Bhutia was all praise for Banerjee’s delicate handling of the Gorkhaland movement that threatened peace in Darjeeling last year. The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha has been
agitating for a separate statehood for Darjeeeling.
“Let us admit that Darejeeling has been neglected and that is the reason why they are demanding different things. There has been no development in the hills. But
thanks to the chief minister, there is now some peace in Darjeeeling. There is lot of potential in Darjeeling, be it tourism or tea gardens. I would like to work
honestly for the development of Darjeeling, ” he added.
Bhutia revealed that he was given the offer two months ago.
“Two months ago I was given the offer and I finally decided to take the plunge into active politics,” he said.
Bhutia hoped his mass fan following would help him to connect with the voters instantly.
“I hope my fan following works. But it will always be a difficult task,” he said.
The football star also hoped that if he wins the elections, it would also help him to work for the development of sports in the country.
“I would also like to work for the development of sports in the country. It would be a great opportunity to work on several issues,” he said.
Bhaichung image over hill Trinamul unit
CM chooses youth appeal of soccer star
March 5: Mamata Banerjee’s decision to field Bhaichung Bhutia from the Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat was “guided” by the soccer star’s popularity and acceptability in the
hills and by the fact that the hill unit of Trinamul was “yet to find its feet”, sources in the party said this evening.
Party sources said that despite requests of the hill Trinamul to give the ticket to a candidate from the Darjeeling hills, Mamata chose Bhaichung, from nearby Sikkim.
“We have set up a hill unit of our party but it is very new,” a Trinamul leader said. “So our leader thought that no candidate from the Darjeeling hills would have the stature to take on the might of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha.”
The Trinamul leader in Calcutta said that in contrast, Bhaichung is popular, has glamour and has conducted several soccer coaching camps in Darjeeling, endearing himself to the youth there.
“Didi believes that where Trinamul is relatively weak and the opposition formidable, it is important to introduce an apolitical glamour factor,” another Trinamul leader said. “It is for this reason that she put up film actress Debasree Roy from Raidighi against the CPM’s Kanti Ganguly in the 2011 Assembly elections and another film actress Satabdi Roy from the Birbhum Lok Sabha seat against CPM’s Brojo Mukherjee, a strong candidate, in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. Both the actresses won.”
He said that according to Mamata’s calculations, if she put up a Darjeeling hill Trinamul candidate, that person was bound to lose. “So she is gambling again, like she did with Debasree and Satabdi,” the Trinamul leader said. “She is banking on Bhaichung’s popularity and glamour to pull him through.”
In addition, the leader said that Mamata realised that Bhaichung’s apolitical image would also help him in his battle against the Morcha. “His political record is clean and there is a possibility that many people in Darjeeling would not see him as a politician and would vote for him irrespective of the fact that he is representing Trinamul,” a minister said.
“By fielding a popular non-political candidate, Mamatadi has put the pressure on the Morcha,” a Trinamul leader said. “Even if the Morcha does not support him, we are confident the young generation will vote for him. This is why he was given the ticket,” the minister added.
However, the party’s decision to field Bhaichung has disappointed hill party leaders who wanted a local name. They fear that Bhaichung may be seen as an “outsider”.
A Darjeeling Trinamul leader on condition of anonymity said a candidate from among leaders in the three hill subdivisions of Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong would have been a better choice.
“We met Mukul Roy, the all-India general secretary of our party, yesterday and requested him to field a candidate from among the hill leadership. We had proposed a number of names such as Binny Sharma, N.B. Khawash, Sharda Subba, Manoj Dewan, Gopal Chhetri and others,” said the Trinamul leader.
But he added: “We will wholeheartedly work towards ensuring the victory of our candidate. We had also told Mukul Roy that we would accept any candidate that the party decides to field. We had a meeting in Mirik today to work out the election strategy and we would go all out to ensure Bhaichung’s victory.”
Bhaichung, who was in Delhi today, said: “I am deeply honoured that Mamata Banerjee and the Trinamul have faith in me and have given me such a big responsibility to serve the people of the hills. I met Mukul Roy two days back and he informed me unofficially about my nomination.”
Bhaichung added: “I want to interact with the people of the hills. I want to understand their sufferings as I strongly feel that Darjeeling has always suffered in terms of development.”
Despite joining politics, Bhaichung maintained that he wanted keep a low profile. “This is the first leap in politics. I want to keep a very low profile. I will not say when I will return to Sikkim as I am sure there would be people organising a reception at the airport, which I don’t want. I want to reach out to people instead of them coming to me.”
The principal political party in the Darjeeling hills, the Morcha, which is yet to spell out its stand on the lone Darjeeling seat, refused to comment.
Baichung’s got a goal… is it a winner?
KOLKATA/DARJEELING: He’s scored many goals on the field, but it’s still far from certain if Baichung Bhutia can score a vital one for his new party, the Trinamool Congress, from the Darjeeling seat. Baichung has many things going for him, but what will make a win for him certain is an endorsement from the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM).
The GJM refused to spell out its stand on Wednesday after TMC announced its list of candidates. “We will not say anything now,” Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri told TOI. That’s because GJM wants to negotiate and get the best deal from either the BJP or the Trinamool. “The BJP is likely to come to power in Delhi and if we support a BJP candidate, we stand to gain a lot. At the same time, maintaining cordial relations with Trinamool is essential for us. But we will have problems within our organization if we support Baichung outright,” said a top GJM leader. Party chief Bimal Gurung is planning to go to Delhi soon to hold parleys with BJP leaders.
In an election where every seat counts, the Darjeeling seat, comprising seven assembly constituencies — three in the Hills with an overwhelming majority of Nepali-speaking voters and four in the plains where Nepali-speaking voters constitute 5% to 15% of the electorate — assumes importance for both the BJP and the Trinamool. Baichung, being the Trinamool candidate and a popular footballer, is sure to get a majority of the votes from Bengalidominated Matigara-Naxalbari , Siliguri, Phansidewa and Chopra assembly segments of the Darjeeling parliamentary seat. But the going in the Hills would be tougher for him.
Baichung is looked upon as an ‘outsider’ in the Darjeeling Hills since he is from Sikkim. The Communist Party of Revolutionary Marxists (CPRM), which has a considerable following in the tea gardens in the Hills, has already said it would not support an “outsider put up by a party which is opposed to a Gorkhaland state”.
Also, Baichung is pitted against Mahendra Lama, the former vice-chancellor of Sikkim Central University , and senior faculty of JNU, who is contesting as an Independent. Lama is from Darjeeling and is well-regarded in the Hills as well as among a section of the educated urban voters in Siliguri with whom he has studiously built a rapport over the past couple of years. Lama also has the support of the Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League which, again, is popular with a section of the electorate in the Hills.
Trinamool hopes that the majority of the votes from the four assembly segments in the plains and from a section of the voters in the Hills would see Baichung through.
But it could still be the GJM that could grant or deny him that vital edge.
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