Rajasthan Football Association chief and Congress leader Manvendra Singh on Friday alleged that union minister Kiren Rijiu "influenced" the outcome of the All India Football Federation (AIFF) elections.
In the election for the post of president, Indian football icon Bhaichung Bhutia suffered a humiliating 1-33 defeat against his former East Bengal teammate Kalyan Chaubey, a BJP leader from West Bengal.
Terming it a sad day for Indian football, Singh claimed that union minister of law and justice Rijiju "exhorted" the state association members to vote against Bhutia by visiting their hotel on the eve of the elections.
"The interference continued through the process and culminated last night when union minister (Rijiju) exhorted the association members that they should not vote for Bhaichung," Singh, a former MLA from Rajasthan, told reporters.
"I think that interference is unacceptable, and is harmful for Indian football. What football is already suffering, can only suffer more. It's not going to be in good hands." Chaubey dismissed the allegations.
With his thumping win, Chaubey became the first footballer-turned-president in the 85-year history of the AIFF.
Singh said as the players are not eligible to vote they exercised the other option of nominating Bhutia's name. "The option was available in terms of contesting that's why we put Bhaichung. When you have the option to select the president from outside of the association, you go for the best. I don't want to race in a Formula One race in an Ambassador, I will go for a Ferrari.
"It could have been in the best hands, but other interests prevailed," he said, deeply upset that "Indian football administrators, the member associations did not exercise their judgment in the interest of football." "When they had a choice of selecting the best player available they did not exercise that judgment and they came under somebody else's influence because the associations had a meeting earlier saying that they would not come under anybody's influence and they would elect one of their own.
"When you have the best as one of the options and you don't exercise it, obviously their judgment is poor and it's not a good day for Indian football.
"I know the popular sentiment in India is for Bhaichung, but obviously, they (members) don't believe in that, they believed in some other interests." Asked why Rijiju wanted the members to vote against Bhutia, he said: "It was politicised after the first meeting when all the associations got together and everybody said 'we will stay united and we won't let anybody outside become the head'.
"Only one member said I'm under pressure to support Kalyan. Everybody said we won't and then within a week everything changes. They all say they are under pressure and they changed their stance, they don't keep the word. It's a shock and deeply disappointing."
He further said it's nothing but electoral lollipops. "Game's revenue model I assume is plateaued. I don't see any new players coming into the game. These are electoral lollipops as they say in political elections and the same enticement obviously is being used here.
"People have voted for their personal gain rather than the interest of the sport," Singh, who is a son of former BJP leader Jaswant Singh, said.
Terming it an insult to Bhutia, he said: "Obviously you are an Indian icon. There is no better Indian player in the last few generations and to be treated like that by the football administrators, it's more than disappointing, it's an insult." When asked about Singh's allegations, Chaubey later said at the press conference: "Yes. He (Rijiju) was present there (at hotel) but what he (Singh) alleged was a lie."