Kalyan Chaubey: Is the high-profile AIFF president under siege?

A stormy AGM on the cards in Itanagar on 10 March as federation sack legal advisor

AIFF president Kalyan Chaubey (photo: AIFF)
AIFF president Kalyan Chaubey (photo: AIFF)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

A little over six months back, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) was gung ho about completing their first year in office – flagging off their balance sheet as well as the blueprint for the way forward. Then suddenly, the wheels started coming apart with the federation sacking their high profile secretary general Shaji Prabhakaran for breach of trust in early November, allegations of financial corruption surfacing against its president Kalyan Chaubey and now, their principal legal advisor Nilanjan Bhattacharjee sacked with immediate effect on Sunday, 3 March.

Chaubey, a former international goalkeeper whose election as the AIFF supremo in 2022 ushered in hope as he was the first footballer to occupy the hot seat, seems to be a man under siege now. The last executive committee meeting in New Delhi on 1 February was preceded by some damning allegations by Gopalakrishna Kosaraju, former president of Andhra Pradesh Football Association like ‘misuse’ of AIFF credit card, to which Chaubey responded by slapping a lawyer’s notice for causing harm to his personal and professional standing.    

Adding fuel to the fire was Bhaichung Bhutia, the decorated former India captain, both of whom and Kosaraju have an axe to grind though as they suffered heavy defeats at the hands of Chaubey and his group in the last elections. Demanding Chaubey’s resignation, Bhutia had told the National Herald: ‘’I maintain what I said in the meeting the other day that Chaubey and treasurer Kipa Ajay should also resign rather than just getting rid of Prabhakaran. What is this talk of mistrust when ahead of the 2022 elections, they were all together in the fight against the previous regime.’’

The sacking of legal counsel Bhattacharjee, barely a week before what could be a stormy Annual General Meeting of the federation in Itanagar on 10 March (a day after the final of the Santosh Trophy in Arunachal Pradesh) is being seen as another ‘authoritarian move’ on part of Chaubey. Bhattacharjee, on his part, had been divulging details of his emails to the Union home minister Amit Shah and Anurag Thakur, Union minister of sports & youth affairs to intervene in the alleged corruption to the media.

‘’It (the sacking) was expected. I knew I would be served with such a letter…I hope that I find justice in my communications for speaking out the truth in the ongoing corruption in the AIFF,’’ he told the media.

Chaubey, who has preferred his lawyer to answer to the sensitive charges, has been very much visible in attending his commitments in Kolkata. When contacted, Kosaraju showed no signs of backing down on his earlier charges: ‘’It’s very clear now that the current AIFF dispensation has failed to deliver and these things should be brought to the notice of the BJP top brass, who was responsible for bringing Chaubey to power. As per the court order, he is only an interim president and fresh elections should be conducted now.’’

If Kosaraju had been playing the whistleblower so far, the dissenting voices in the AIFF gained further steam as Caitano Fernandes, the Goa Football Association (GFA) president questioned the approval process for the audited accounts of the last financial year without being presented to the AGM. The Bridge, which is in possession of Fernandes’ letter to the AIFF boss, says: ‘’We would like to understand how were the audited accounts of last financial year approved without placing them for the AGM. I don’t know how you’re going to explain away this incompetency.’’

Strong words these, and all eyes will be on Chaubey to how he handles the impending storm!

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