Kolkata: Former Indian football captain Bhaichung Bhutia on Monday announced his exit from Trinamool Congress, from which he had unsuccessfully contested two elections. On Twitter, Bhutia said he was “no longer associated with any political party".
Bhutia had joined the Trinamool Congress in a surprise move and contested the 2014 general election from the Darjeeling Lok Sabha constituency. He lost to Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) S.S. Ahluwalia by a little over 197,000 votes. The Trinamool Congress fielded Bhutia again in the 2016 assembly poll to take on Ashok Bhattacharya of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) at the Siliguri constituency, but he lost by 14,000 votes.
Bhutia had lately distanced himself from the Trinamool Congress. At the peak of last year’s agitation in Darjeeling over the demand for a separate state, he had gone against the party, and toeing the line of Sikkim chief minister Pawan Chamling, said the creation of Gorkhaland was the only permanent solution for the problems of the Gorkha community.
Bhutia, who hails from Sikkim but has lived in Kolkata for a long time, wasn’t immediately available for comments. He is said to be travelling abroad.
Bhutia’s resignation from Trinamool Congress, was “expected", said BJP leader and Union minister Kiran Rijiju on Twitter. “He told me he has high regards for (Trinamool Congress chief) Mamata Banerjee but was unable to cope with the situation. He desires to do more for football and Sikkim," Rijiju added.
The Trinamool Congress declined to comment on Bhutia’s resignation “from membership and all official and political posts" of the party. Partha Chatterjee, secretary general of the Trinamool Congress and a cabinet minister in West Bengal, said the party hadn’t heard anything from Bhutia yet.
There is speculation within the Trinamool Congress that Bhutia is going to take interest in politics in Sikkim. In West Bengal, he was never taken seriously by the Trinamool Congress, said leaders of the party in Kolkata, who asked not to be identified.
The party should not have dragged Bhutia into politics in the first place, said Niraj Zimba, a spokesperson for the Gorkha National Liberation Front, which had backed the Trinamool Congress in the 2014 general election. For the Trinamool Congress, Bhutia’s leaving the party is “inconsequential", said Zimba, who had worked closely with Bhutia during the 2014 election.
The Trinamool Congress has fielded other former stars from the field of football and cricket, and compared with Bhutia, they have done well for themselves. Former cricketer Lakshmi Ratan Shukla, who won the 2016 assembly election to become a legislator from Howrah town, was made minister for sports and youth services in West Bengal.
Like Bhutia, former striker Dipendu Biswas too had an unimpressive debut in politics with the Trinamool Congress, defeated by the BJP’s Samik Bhattacharya in a 2014 assembly byelection at the Basirhat constituency. The party, however, gave him a ticket again to contest the 2016 assembly election, and this time he beat Bhattacharya by over 20,000 votes.