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27 Apr 2018

Bhutia lines up party

RAJEEV RAVIDAS, TT, Apr 27, 2018, Gangtok: Former footballer Bhaichung Bhutia on Thursday announced a new party that would challenge the Sikkim Democratic Front in the Assembly elections next year.

Bhutia said the Hamro Sikkim Party would be launched to cleanse the system in his home state where the SDF has been in power for over two decades.

"The next election will be between (the party with) black money and clean money," the former India football captain told a news conference in Delhi.

Bhaichung said the party's formal launch would take place in Sikkim in a few weeks. The Nepali "Hamro" means "ours" in English.

Bhaichung, who had quit the Trinamul Congress early this year after unsuccessfully contesting two elections in Bengal, said: "The present system (in Sikkim) has forced us to enter politics. Our party will be youth and women-oriented, but we will also reach out to all sections of the people. Our party is Sikkim's party."

Bhaichung hinted that he would not head the new party, and a "clean and credible person" would be at the helm.

"Hamro Sikkim Party has been formed by the people of Sikkim, and we dedicate the party to them. I am not here to become its president or chief minister. We will have very clean people in the party."

Six other persons, all youths barring one, from diverse backgrounds were seated beside Bhaichung at the news conference.

The lone senior person was M. N. Dahal, the former spokesman for the Sikkim Krantikari Morcha, the main opposition party in the state.

The former footballer identified a number of issues, which, he said, needed to be addressed and corruption was at the top of the list.

"Number one problem in Sikkim is corruption; unemployment is the second-most important...These are the issues the government must address," he said.

Analysts have said Bhaichung would not have it easy in Sikkim, where chief minister Pawan Chamling stands like a colossus, and his party seemingly invincible. "In the last Assembly elections in 2014, the SKM under the leadership of P.S. Golay gave a strong fight, but fell far short of unseating Chamling. Bhaichung will not find it easy," said an analyst.

In the lead up to the formation of the party, Bhaichung and his friends had embarked on a month-long tour of Sikkim dubbed the "Yuva Yatra".

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