Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan and East Bengal look set to drop out of Indian football's top division once the recommendation by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) to hand the AFC Champions League qualifier spot to the Indian Super League (ISL) winners is ratified by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).
The two clubs ply their trade in the I-League, the winners of which might have to be content with a spot in the AFC Cup play-offs. The move also means ISL becomes India's de facto top division which has come as a blow to the Kolkata clubs.
The Mariners and the Red and Golds have now approached both the political camps in West Bengal in order to ensure they do not have to ply their trade in a league which is not the top division of the country.
Six rebel I-League clubs, led by Mohun Bagan and East Bengal, had earlier written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking an inquiry into AIFF's stand. Gokulam Kerala, Aizawl FC and Minerva Punjab had also met with Union Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju to discuss this matter.
Bagan and East Bengal have now approached prominent West Bengal BJP leader Kailash Vijayvargiya in order to ensure the two clubs play in the top division of the country next season.
Mohun Bagan officials Debashish Dutta and Srinjoy Bose, along with East Bengal's Debabrata Sarkar and Shanti Ranjan Dasgupta, had met Mr.Vijayvargiya, a prominent political rival of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee (of Trinamool Congress).
"We have let our concerns known to Mr. Kailash Vijayvargiya. We believe that East Bengal and Mohun Bagan should be given their due respect and these two clubs must play in the top league of India. He has heard our problems and has promised to help us in every manner possible. We hope to hear from him very shortly," Debabrata Sarkar to Goal.
Interestingly, Indian Football Association (IFA) President Ajit Banerjee who is the brother of Mamata Banerjee has also shot a letter to AIFF President Praful Patel in support of the two Kolkata clubs.
"IFA is shocked to hear the news that East Bengal and Mohun Bagan are not getting a berth in the top tier of Indian football. These two clubs have been the stepping stone of Indian football. Many eminent players have represented India who plied their trade for these two clubs. They have been the nursery for Indian football. Their fan base runs into crores and is spread throughout the world," the letter reads.
"Considering these factors, we feel that if they don’t participate in the top tier of Indian football then it will be a great loss for our country.
"Hence, it is our sincere request to you, to reconsider the decision and allow East Bengal and Mohun Bagan to play in the top tier of Indian football. Without them, the glory of Indian football might be lost," Mr. Banerjee wrote in the letter.
It remains to be seen whether these efforts will bear fruit. Also, it will be interesting to see if BJP and TMC, two bitter political opponents, come together to champion the cause of the two Kolkata clubs.