The much-anticipated election for the post of All India Football Federation (AIFF) president is set to be a straight fight between the legendary Bhaichung Bhutia and former goalkeeper Kalyan Chaubey, with the latter emerging as the front-runner. Former captain Bhutia and Chaubey, an ex Mohun Bagan and East Bengal goalkeeper, were proposed by the state associations of Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat respectively. The Rajasthan FA seconded Bhutia while the Arunachal Pradesh association did the same for Chaubey, who had unsuccessfully fought the Lok Sabha elections from Krishnanagar constituency in West Bengal in 2019.
Sources tracking the elections of the AIFF, to be held on September 2, said that if there are no last-minute changes in strategy, only Bhutia and Chaubey will be in the fray for the president’s post.
Returning officer Umesh Sinha has already published the 34-member electoral college after the Supreme Court on Monday terminated the mandate of the Committee of Administrators (CoA) and modified its earlier order in a bid to salvage the FIFA Women’s U-17 World Cup.
It is learnt that several state associations in a meeting here on Wednesday decided to field Chaubey as their “consensus” candidate for the post of AIFF president.
“Kalyan Chaubey is to be the consensus candidate for all the state associations. But, in the last minute, a few associations who are not happy on some issues, decided to support Bhutia,” an official of a state association told PTI.
On his part, Bhutia, the talisman of the national team during his illustrious international career between 1995 and 2011, said he decided to contest elections with an aim to take Indian football to greater heights.
“I have filed my nomination for AIFF president’s post and I feel I am the right person for the job,” Bhutia said.
“I have played so many games for the country and top clubs and I also know a bit on the administrative side as I am in Mission Olympics Cell of sports ministry as well as in other committees. I want Indian football to reach new heights,” he added.
The 45-year-old Bhutia had earlier filed his nomination papers for the president’s post for the elections which were to be held on August 28 under the aegis of the SC-appointed CoA.
But, in a verdict on August 22, the SC terminated the mandate of the CoA, disallowed the inclusion of 36 former players in the electoral college and postponed the polls by a week in order to salvage the Women’s U-17 World Cup whose hosting was jeopardised after FIFA suspended the AIFF.
Football Delhi president Shaji Prabhakaran, who had filed the nomination papers for the president’s post when the polls were to be held under the aegis of the SC-appointed CoA, decided not to stand for elections this time.
According to sources, Prabhakaran could become the general secretary of the AIFF if the Chaubey-led group wins the polls.
Congress MLA and Karnataka association chief N A Haris is set to be elected unopposed as vice president as he has got support of most of the state units of the AIFF.
Another post for which a contest may take place is that of the treasurer. Arunachal Pradesh’s Kipa Ajay, however, is set to win hands down against Gopalakrishna Kosaraju of Andhra Pradesh.
As many as 13 candidates have filed their nomination papers for 14 posts of executive committee members and all of them are expected to be elected without any contest.
They are G P 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, Syed Imtiaz Husain.
Elections are to be held for the posts of one president, one vice president, one treasurer and 14 executive committee members. Six former players — four male and two women — will be co-opted later as executive committee members with voting rights.
The deadline for filing nomination papers is 1pm on Saturday. They can withdraw their candidature by 1pm on Monday.
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