Ex-footballer eyes comeback, confident of entering Bengal assembly (IANS Interview)

Kolkata, April 23 (IANS) He was adept at scoring from half-chances – 245 goals at the national and international levels – but stumbled in his first bid to enter the West Bengal assembly. Toughened by the narrow loss, former India football captain Dipendu Biswas has once again headed into the challenge and is confident of victory.

Renominated by the ruling Trinamool Congress from the Basirhat South seat in North 24 Parganas, Biswas says he is confident of success this time around.

Two years ago, Biswas had lost by less than 2,000 votes to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate Samik Bhattacharya in a by-poll to hand the saffron party its only legislator in the outgoing assembly, and the first in 15 years.

“In 2014, I didn’t have a good understanding of politics. I lost by a very small margin. I’ve been a footballer all through my life, so you lose some and win some. I took it in my stride and also saw it as a challenge. This time, I will win, 100 percent” a confident Biwas told IANS in an interview.

“The day I lost, didi (elder sister – as Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is affectionately called) told me to prepare for the next assembly election. Now I am all for it. The defeat has made me stronger,” he maintained.

As the constituency – with an electorate of 247,804 – votes on April 25, Biswas will again face stiff competition from Bhattacharya, as also Left front-backed Congress nominee Amit Majumdar, whose father Asit had contested the by-poll and garnered nearly 22,000 votes. The CPI-M had bagged close to 25,000 votes, but its workers are now vigorously campaigning for Amit Majumdar.

The 37-year-old Biswas believes he will be rewarded for the work he has done for the constituency over the past two years.

“I belong to Basirhat. I have grown up here. Since childhood there has been no development here. The municipality is 100 years old but still there has been no development,” he lamented.

“It lacked proper roads, quality drinking water and street lights. And this is also an arsenic-prone area. After didi’s orders, where she told me to look after the people in the constituency, I’ve been able to bring in water and install street lights. Healthcare has also improved,” Biswas stated.

A graduate of the 1995 batch of the Tata Football Academy (TFA), Biswas plied his trade for teams like East Bengal, Mohun Bagan, Mohammedan Sporting and Mahindra United. He also holds the distinction of having captained the under-19, under-21 and senior Indian squads.

But Biswas finds politics tougher than soccer.

“Politics is very tough. I am getting no rest at all. When I was a player I used to switch off my cell phone at 10 pm and sleep. I used to get up in the morning and practice, play matches and then rest again. But here I don’t have the time to rest.”

The footballer-turned-politician refused to speak about rival candidates.

“I don’t want to talk about the opposition. I have joined politics to usher in development in Basirhat, and ensure people are happy.”

Biswas said the constituency needs a new main road and proper drainage facilities.

Does he visualise himself as a future state sports minister? The former Mohun Bagan skipper broke out into loud laughter.

“Ekhon bolbo na (Don’t want to talk about it now). No comments. Obviously I have plans related to football.”

He said he had been to Brazil for the football World Cup in 2014 and may travel to Moscow in 2018 for the next edition. “When I was at TFA I went to Germany. So I have seen their facilities. I want to replicate them here. Will also try to bring in the footballing culture of those countries,” Biswas added.

(Debdoot Das can be contacted at debdoot.d@ians.in)



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