Game Of Votes: Trinamul, BJP, CPI(M) Rush To The Aid Of East Bengal, Mohun Bagan
THE UNREST AND internal divide at East Bengal and Mohun Bagan over the topic of participation in ISL is being further amplified as major political parties are openly stepping into the matter.
As the anti-ISL coalition of the Kolkata clubs, led by certain factions of the club officials, led its “movement” against IMG-Reliance and AIFF demanding a waiver of franchise fee and the right to play out of their own home city, they always had West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee and her party Trinamul Congress at their side. This was unsurprising because a number of the top officials in both clubs are, or were, actively involved with the TMC as members, leaders or donors.
But soon, it became apparent that political interest around the clubs spans the entire political spectrum of the state, and even reaches the central government.
On June 13th, BJP’s national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya wrote a letter to the clubs’ officials saying that he would be “proud to be of any help” to the clubs in helping resolve the matter of participation in ISL, on the behalf of the party. Rumours soon went around claiming that renowned political Kunal Ghosh had written to sports minister Vijay Goel, asking him to intervene.
Vijay Goel, in the past, has also been vocal regarding I-League and ISL, saying that Aizawl FC, the champion club of India, should not be forcefully relegated to second tier.
Soon after BJP was seen taking an interest in the matter, even the CPI(M) decided to become active. Several local newspapers carried quotes from left leaders that they were observing the situation at East Bengal and Mohun Bagan closely and were ready to offer their political to the clubs’ struggle against IMG-Reliance.
The political chatter around the club reached a new level when Mohun Bagan president Swapan Sadhan Bose (Tutu Bose) submitted his resignation. The chatter, however, died down soon as it became obvious that even after days of the letter being submitted, it was yet to be accepted by the club’s working committee.
Now, it seems, that the political activities are resurging around the clubs. Today, BJP’s West Bengal Secretary Ritesh Tiwari wrote to Mr Vijay Goel, asking him to intervene and help protect these two clubs. Here’s his entire letter…
Shri Vijay Goel
Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports, Shastri Bhawan,
This is to highlight the contribution of Bengal Football Clubs in the history of Indian Football which is being ignored in recent times.The contributions of major Clubs like Mohun Bagan, most Ancient club of the century and East Bengal who have almost 100 yrs of glorious history in Indian Football have not been considered in Indian Super league (ISL) .In 1911, Mohun Bagan created history by becoming the 1st Indian Club to win IFA shield after defeating EAST Yorkshire Regiment. This win considered a landmark victory in the Indian Freedom struggle. There are renowned Players like Gostha Pal who have played for this Club which cannot be ignored.
Earlier there was a discussion for including both the Clubs Mohun Bagan and East Bengal in ISL. Indian Super league is created only for profit orientation and all major Clubs should also be included to help improvement of the Game as well. This year two new Clubs like Tata and Bengaluru FC has joined ISL. Though there is contribution of Tata in grooming many young football players in their academy but still it cannot be compared with the contributions of both Mohun Bagan and East Bengal. I personally feel that by excluding Clubs like Mohun Bagan and East Bengal in this league its disowning the contribution of Bengal in Indian Football. We the people of Bengal are emotionally and passionately attached to this game. “Football is in our Blood “and we will not entertain any act of ignorance with us in this game.
Request your intervention to solve this issue and instruct AIFF to include Mohun Bagan and East Bengal in ISL.
Secretary,BJP West Bengal”
Both East Bengal and Mohun Bagan are yet to reach an internal consensus over whether to accept the franchise fee rule and switch to ISL from I-League, which is bound to require them to welcome a heavyweight corporate sponsor who will want majority shares in the football teams and therefore tight control over the clubs’ footballing operations. It is this aspect of giving up the power that has many officials throwing a fit and opposing the move to ISL.
But the clubs are run by governing bodies elected by the members, and if the current set of officials fail to deliver what the majority of the fans want – which is a move to ISL a la Bengaluru FC – they may come under heavy challenge from opposition factions in the next club elections. Mohun Bagan are meant to hold elections come September and thus it makes sense why multiple political parties would be taking interest in the clubs now.
Both East Bengal and Mohun Bagan evoke an emotional reaction from citizens of West Bengal, i.e. voters. For years now, Trinamul Congress has held influence over these clubs, and they have used the clubs to promote themselves to the general public on multiple occasions. It’s clear that both BJP and CPI(M) believe that now when the TMC-favoured club officials are being seen by the majority of fans as failing to protect the clubs as Indian football grows through a turbulent re-shaping of the league structure, showing sympathy towards those clubs and even appearing to be actively helping them will pay dividents in the elections. Speculations are already afoot if some political party will actively back an opposing faction of members and officials within the clubs.
But the biggest question among football fans in West Bengal is, when will Congress jump in for a piece of the action?
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