"Politics is like football as both are team games," Kalyan Chaubey said.
Krishnanagar: Kalyan Chaubey's job on the football field was to keep the net but he is on political turf now and his role has reversed.
In his maiden electoral battle from Krishnanagar in West Bengal, the 42-year-old former Indian goalkeeper looks to net the ball for his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
And he believes his experience in football will help turn the tide in favour of his party. "Politics is like football as both are team games," he adds.
Krishnanagar in Nadia district, one of the few parliamentary constituencies in West Bengal the BJP had a lawmaker in the past, is one of the 23 seats out of the state's 42 that the party has set its eye on in this election.
Chaubey is confident that the people will send him to Delhi as they want to get rid of violence "perpetrated by the Trinamool Congress".
"In last year's panchayat elections, people couldn't vote in the district. Several seats were won uncontested and where elections were held, they were sent back from polling booths. They want to get rid of this violent atmosphere created by the state's ruling party," Chaubey told PTI as he toured lanes and bylanes of the town, about 140 kms from Kolkata.
"If voting is peaceful, we will wrest the seat from TMC this time," he asserts.
With loudspeakers blaring patriotic songs, a prime feature of Chaubey's door-to-door campaign, he said,
This election is not a fight between the BJP and the Trinamool. It's a fight for our democratic rights against misgovernance of the state government.
While BJP president Amit Shah has campaigned in Krishnanagar on Monday, Prime Narendra Modi will be addressing a rally here on Wednesday.
I am glad that I have been trusted with this responsibility as Krishnanagar is a very important seat for us. I joined the party back in January of 2015 and has been active within the organisation for over four years now.
If you ask me why BJP, it is because I believe in the ideology that they upholds, said the former goalkeeper, who donned the jerseys of both East Bengal and Mohun Bagan, traditional arch rivals in Indian football.
Chaubey is a graduate of the Tata Football Academy and has represented India between 1999 and 2006. In domestic arena, beside Mohun Bagan and East Bengal, Chaubey has played for Goa's Salgaocar FC.
Though there are reasons for Chaubey to be hopeful about Krishnanagar, banking on the inroads that Hindutva forces have made in the district over the past few years and a flare of anti-incumbency against the sitting MP, Trinamool Congress's Tapas Paul, the feud within ranks of the local BJP leadership for choosing an "outsider" over veteran Satyabrata Mookherjee may unsettle his chances.
Even Mookherjee, 86, who won the seat in 1999 when the BJP was in alliance with then newly-born Trinamool Congress, has not left his displeasure unheard for being left out. The former BJP state chief, who was also a Union minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, was in race from the seat even in the national elections of 2014 when he bagged about 26 per cent votes.
However, Chaubey said that the issue doesn't exist anymore as Mukherjee has blessed him for his electoral success.
"He didn't know me at first but after knowing me he has been there for me. He has visited all the seven Assembly segments that make up the Krishnanagar Lok Sabha seat and is asking people to vote for Kalyan Chaubey. If he was not happy with my candidature, he wouldn't have done that. There are 1,812 booths in my constituency and with the limited time I have, it is not possible to visit each and every area. Jalu babu (as Mookherjee is locally known) is visiting some areas I couldn't."
With chants of Jai Shree Ram resonating in the air as Chaubey's open jeep moved from one area to another in this town of middle-class professionals and businessmen, most of who travel to Kolkata for their livelihood, he said, There are infinite scope for employment in Krishnanagar as this soil is blessed for growing so many types of fruits.
Also this is the hub of tant sarees and kansar bashon' (copper plated utensils). I hope I will be able to work for creating jobs here.
"Krishnanagar town is lying 25 years back in time. There are power cuts three times a day here. The village I visited yesterday did not have power for the last five days because of a thunderstorm. If you go across the town, you will see stagnant rain water on main roads as drainage system has completely broken down.
The sitting Trinamool MP has not visited the area in the last four years of his ten years in power. I want to bring in a change in all these, Chaubey said as he took a break from the campaign for lunch amid rush to click selfies by supporters.
Chaubey's wife and daughter are also aiding his campaign. They have been here since the beginning but recently went back to Kolkata as my daughter's school has started.
They will come back before the polls, he said, munching on a plate of rice, vegetables and curd sitting outside the house of a party leader on a hot summer afternoon as he got ready for the next leg of his roadshow.
Chaubey has been pitted against Trinamool Congress's Mohua Moitra, a sitting MLA and the party's well-known face in national television, and CPIM's Shantanu Jha, a professor of agri-sciences.
Krishnanagar will vote in the fourth phase of Lok Sabha poll on April 29.