Kolkata, April 23: A number of footballers, former and current, are contesting this year's Assembly election in West Bengal on different party's tickets. Will these dribblers be able to book their seats in the state legislature?
To start with, former Indian football captain Baichung Bhutia contested this election for the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) from the high-profile Siliguri seat in Darjeeling district in North Bengal on April 17. [TMC candidate's poster found in Bangladesh!]
Bhutia, who contested against former Left minister Asok Bhattacharya, a heavyweight leader from Siliguri, is, however, not being backed as the favourite in his latest political match. The 39-year-old contested the Lok Sabha election from Darjeeling in 2014 on the TMC's ticket but lost to the BJP's SS Ahluwalia. Bhutia, however, had polled around 1 lakh votes in that election. [Top contests: Baichung vs Asok]
Dipendu Biswas is another former footballer contesting this election on the TMC's ticket and he will take on the BJP's only MLA in the state, Shamik Bhattacharjee. This is the second time the two will lock their horns at Basirhat South constituency---an area bordering Bangladesh----and Biswas is trailing 0-1.
He lost closely to Bhattacharjee in the bypoll which was held in this constituency in September 2014 after the death of the MLA, the CPI(M)'s Narayan Mukhopadhyay. Biswas is confident of defeating Bhattacharjee this time as he believes the people of teh constituency will bless the Mamata Banerjee government for its development work undertaken in this seat.
Biswas led the TMC's successful campaign in the municipal election in Basirhat and Taki last year.
Syed Rahim Nabi is another footballer in the election fray this year and he is contesting from Pandua constituency in Hooghly. Pandua is one of the few remaining Left strongholds in the district which was swept by the Mamata Banerjee wave in 2011. [TMC's footballer candidate scores same-side goal]
Nabi is also confident of emerging the winner since the TMC has a substantial lead over the CPI(M) in this Assembly segment as per the 2014 general elections. Nabi, who was recently reprimanded by party chief Mamata Banerjee in a rally for not being 'politically correct', will take on the CPI(M) Amjaad Hossain Sheikh, who won the 2011 election by just 397 votes.
Besides the three footballers contesting on the ruling party's ticket, a fourth is contesting on the BJP's ticket and he is Shashthi Duley, a former player. This seat in Dhanekhali saw a non-Left party winning after a gap of 49 years in 2011 when the TMC's Asima Patra emerged victorious by 16,277 votes against her nearest rival from the Forward Bloc.
The Bloc had won this seat without a disruption between 1977 and 2006. For Duley, it will be a tough task to take his party, which finished a distant third behind the TMC and Bloc in 2011 with just 4,334 votes, into the top two.