Prem Das Rai,
Member of Parliament (Lok Sabha)
Bhaichung Bhutia should make his case in Sikkim if he wants the people to hear him.
Bhaichung Bhutia, who is respected as a footballer, or a ‘star’ as he calls himself, is a de-facto president of the HSP or Hamro Sikkim Party. From his interview published in The Wire on 5th December, it is clear that he has no understanding of the real politics or connection on ground.
He is a self-declared ‘grassroots politician’. What he doesn’t understand is that becoming a grassroots politician is more than just randomly coming to the horizon. In fact, this makes him look very opportunistic which is as one has noticed with his ill-conceived forays into the Darjeeling district on TMC backing. Now suddenly the grassroots of Sikkim have become near and dear!
It is well known in Sikkim that he is the face of some elements of the BJP. He does not have the full support of the BJP top brass, but there are some elements within the party that are willing to play along with his game plan. He even said that the SDF is very strong and an alliance might be necessary. Therefore, when he says that the BJP has to break its alliance with the SDF and only then he would be a candidate for some kind of alliance with the BJP. We really don’t understand what he is trying to say because we know for a fact that he is propped up by some elements of BJP. SDF on the other hand is very clear that we are going at the 2019 elections on our own. This announcement was already made by our Party a few weeks prior.
On all the other issues, it is very clear that he has very little understanding of the public policies that the SDF party and the Government of India have unleashed in the state.
For instance, let us look at organic farming. He has written very disparagingly about the farmers in the state. There are a lot of farmers whose children have come out of farming. And therefore, today the idea of going back into organic farming is to have high-value farming. There are many fine examples of modern agripreneurs from Sikkim. This state is been recognized by none other than UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) for being the best state in agro-ecology. Even our Prime Minister has commended the state in his Mann Ki Baat. Therefore, what expertise does he have to paint such a misleading and harrowing picture of the organic farming situation in the state.
He also talks about the large amount of money that the Government of India (GoI) has spent in the power sector. He talks as if the government of Sikkim has misused all of that. But this money is used through the agencies of the GoI like the Power Grid Corporation of India who are building the transmission lines. That money doesn’t come into the state government exchequer. It is being funnelled into Sikkim because we have hydropower projects from which power is generated to be evacuated to the rest of the country. He also has no understanding of what the pharmaceutical companies do here and how the land is leased out to them. If he wants to go to the grassroots, he should go to the people who have leased out their land to pharmaceutical companies and learn how it is done. There are lots of people from his own community who have done that.
Therefore, all of this goes to show his poor understanding of how public policy functions in the state and the country. In all his years of being out of the state he has forgotten his own roots and is now playing ball with the BJP for a backdoor entry.
Baselessly denigrating a state led by our Hon’ble chief minister for 24 years, a state which has one of the highest human development indices in the country, a state which despite been a border state has had 24 years of peace and progress. How can he make these allegations? And best of all who will believe these lies and half-truths.
This kind of attitude can only come from opportunistic leaders like him who doesn’t even have an iota of experience in public policy. He is only the vice-president of HSP, among several other vice presidents. HSP doesn’t have a president yet. Who exactly is leading the party and why is Baichung Bhutia acting as the de-facto leader? This is a question that a lot of people in Sikkim are asking.
The people of India and people of Sikkim will not be fooled.
(This is a response to an interview of Bhaichung Bhutia published on The Wire on 5th December 2018).
(Shri Prem Das Rai is the Member of Parliament, Lok Sabha and a spokesperson for SDF. Views expressed are his own.)