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AIFF Elections 2022: Kalyan leading Bhaichung as first 'Player President' gets closer to reality

The AIFF Elections 2022 is underway. As per reports, there is a battle between Kalyan Chaubey and Bhaichung Bhutia, while the former is leading marginally. The dream of being the first 'Player President' is close to becoming real.

AIFF Elections 2022: Kalyan Chaubey leading Bhaichung Bhutia as first Player President gets closer to reality-ayh
First Published Sep 1, 2022, 5:12 PM IST

The winds of change have begun blowing over the All India Football Federation (AIFF) on the eve of its polls. The sports body is bracing to elect a former player as its president for the first time in its 85-year-old presence. During Friday's election for the AIFF president, 45-year-old former Indian captain Bhaichung Bhutia, one of Indian football's most prominent legends, will have a straightforward war with former Mohun Bagan and East Bengal goalkeeper Kalyan Chaubey. Bhutia's candidature has gotten the election more traction than it would have if he were not in the fray.

Also, Chaubey, 45, is the front-runner for the top job with backing from politically significant state associations like Gujarat and Arunachal Pradesh. To put it on record, Chaubey is a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader from West Bengal, and it could be evidence that he does enjoy a fair amount of political currency, which is a must in such sports body polls.

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There have been a lot of blusters, with Chaubey believed to have the "blessings" of one of the most influential political heavyweights in the North East with an active interest in Indian sports. And many people related to Indian football witness this as why Bhutia's home state association Sikkim isn't backing his candidature.

Elections to the other two top posts (general secretary and treasurer) will also see direct fights between the candidates. Rajasthan Football Association (RFA) president Manvendra Singh, a Congress politician, has entered the fray against NA Haris for the sole vice-president's position. Haris is the Karnataka FA president and a sitting MLA for Congress from the state.

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Manvendra's state association had advocated Bhutia's candidature. Andhra Pradesh state association president Gopalakrishna Kosaraju and Arunachal Pradesh's Kipa Ajay are the two candidates for the treasurer's post. Kosaraju, who had proposed Bhutia as the presidential nominee, had written a letter on August 26 to withdraw his nomination. Yet, sources added that he had not filled up a form to remove the same. Hence, his candidature stayed.

The new AIFF dispensation will have a lot on its plate, and the vital task among them is the smooth conduct of the 2022 FIFA Women's U-17 World Cup in October. After the withdrawal deadline of candidature concluded at 1 PM on Tuesday, returning officer Umesh Sinha discharged the final list of candidates for each post at the election.

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The returning officer has issued the electoral college of 34 representatives from the state associations. Elections will be held for the posts of a president, a vice president, a treasurer and 14 executive committee members. Six former players (four male and a couple of women) will be co-opted later as executive committee members, who would possess voting rights.

As only 14 contenders remain in the fray for as many posts of executive committee members, all of them would be declared elected. They are GP Palguna, Avijit Paul, P Anilkumar, Valanka Natasha Alemao, Maloji Raje Chhatrapati, Menla Ethenpa, Mohan Lal, Arif Ali, K Neibou Sekhose, Lalnghinglova Hmar, Deepak Sharma, Vijay Bali and Syed Imtiaz Husain.

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The elections were planned to be held under the Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators (CoA's) watch on August 28. However, in an August 22 verdict, the Supreme Court discontinued the CoA mandate, disallowed the 36 former players' inclusion in the electoral college, postponing the polls by a week to rescue the Women's U-17 World Cup, whose hosting was threatened after the AIFF suspension by the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA). FIFA lifted the ban on August 26, clearing the decks for India to host the Women's U-17 World Cup.

Bhutia alleged meddling from some ruling Sikkim Krantakari Morcha (SKM) party leaders by pressuring the state football body president Menla Ethenpa to vote against him. He has managed teams like United Sikkim and headed the AIFF's technical committee.

(With inputs from PTI)

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