New Delhi: Once called the ‘Wall of Indian hockey’ for his impeccable defence, former captain Dilip Tirkey has exuded confidence that he would now be able to thwart the challenges posed by his political rivals, Jual Oram and Hemananda Biswal, in Odisha’s Sundargarh seat.
Rajya Sabha member Tirkey is making his debut in electoral politics on a BJD ticket from the tribal belt of Sundargarh, also called the nursery of hockey in Odisha.
He will face former Union minister and BJP candidate Oram and former chief minister Biswal, who is the Congress candidate, and the player who was known for his tight marking skills near the goalpost is well aware of the challenge.
“I know that it is not going to be easy. They are veterans while I am very young; but I have faced many challenges throughout my career and performed,” Tirkey told PTI.
“Hockey is very popular in Sundargarh and people know me well. I have been working actively here for the past two years,” says the most-capped Indian player who was born in Sundargarh.
Known for his sportsman spirit, the ‘Mr Cool’ of Indian hockey does not believe that active politics is not meant for people like him.
“I think people with these virtues are needed in politics as well. Politics is a platform for development. When I was a player, I could request only, but with this platform I can actually raise people’s voices. I have served my country on the hockey field and now I want to serve the people of Sundargarh,” he said.
His priorities include providing better infrastructure and checking the trafficking of girls.
“Trafficking of girls is a major problem in Odisha, especially in Sundargarh and I want to stop it. I want better roads, water, electricity and sports infrastructure, including a hockey academy here,” he says.
“During my tenure in Rajya Sabha, I raised my voice for hockey to be declared our national game and to confer Bharat Ratna on Major Dhyanchand. There are many tribes in Odisha which do not have the status of Scheduled Tribes. I want to work for that,” says Tirkey.
He also dismisses any (Narendra) “Modi wave” in Odisha, saying there is only a “Naveen wave” in the state.
“I don’t see any ‘Modi wave’ here, rather there is a ‘Naveen wave’ for sure. Locals do not know Modi but they are aware of the development work done by the Naveen Patnaik government and that will get reflected in the parliamentary elections,” he says.
Despite his entry into active politics, Tirkey says his love for hockey will remain forever.
“My association with hockey will never end. I am available for Indian hockey whenever I am needed,” he says.
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