From Pitch to Politics

Both newspapers and social media have been swirling with the stories of BJP’s “Dada vs Didi” gameplan, following a pre-election meeting between the newly inducted BCCI President Sourav Ganguly and Minister of Home Affairs and BJP President  Amit Shah. Even as both of them stay clear of rumours with neutral statements to the media, analysts believe that Amit Shah has already played his master stroke in alarming an already-panicked Mamata Banerjee.

The election of Jay Shah, son of Amit Shah as BCCI Secretary, and Arun Singh Dhumal, younger brother of Anurag Thakur, Minister of State  (Finance and Corporate affairs) as the treasurer on October 23 portrays BJP’s constant efforts to influence BCCI. The 2019 Lok Sabha elections gifted BJP  a massive win in West Bengal with a win in eighteen seats, up from only two in 2014. With the assembly elections due in 2021 in West Bengal, BJP seems to be on a hunting spree for a campaign face, and with Bengal’s long-worshipped obsession with their son of the soil, Sourav Ganguly poses as the best buy in BJP’s catalogue of game changers.  

However, an ever-diplomatic Amit Shah told Outlook India, “BJP didn’t try to recruit him and neither did he deny joining the party. If he does, its good. I tell every citizen of this country that the BJP is a good party to join. It’s my job.” “We don’t need a face for the BJP in Bengal. We won 18 seats in Bengal without a face and lost few seats here and there,” he added. Ganguly, however aces at dealing with political bouncers.

Passing the relay batton

Now and then, politics in India has liked mingling with sports, especially cricket. With the likes of Gautam Gambhir, Kirti Azad, Azharuddin, Nawab Pataudi, Sachin Tendulkar, and Navjot Singh Sidhu, who have made an indelible mark with their sports fame in politics, parties have seemed to reap good returns.

Navjot Singh Sidhu

Navjot Singh Sidhu known for his Hindi poetry and cricket also tried his luck  in politics. He joined BJP in 2004 and contested in general election from Amritsar.  He won the election but had to resign due to a court case.

In 2016, he resigned as M.P. from Punjab and quit BJP. He then joined Congress (INC) in 2017 and was elected to the Punjab Legislative Assembly from Amritsar East. He left the INC in July this year.

Kirti Azad

Kirti Azad, former cricketer and son of former Chief Minister of Bihar Bhagwat Jha Azad  has also been a successful politician. He won thrice representing the BJP in Darbhanga, Bihar. In February 2019, he joined the Congress.

On joining politics he told Deccan Chronicle, “It just happened by chance — I met Mr L.K. Advani at his residence and as things would happen, I became an MLA in 1993. At that time, I was still captaining the Delhi Ranji Trophy team. But then, I could do only one job — either play cricket or be a politician. So I decided to give up the former, although I thought I had a couple of years (of cricket) more in me.”

Sachin Tendulkar

The master blaster of cricket Sachin tendulkar, was nominated to Rajya Sabha by the the President in April 2012. He got into controversies regarding his absence for the proceedings in Upper House.

Gautam Gambhir

With his frequent appearances on news and tweets on socially responsible politics, this cricketer-turned politician has emerged as a much favoured face in Delhi. With a declining career graph towards his retirement from cricket, Gautam Gambhir seems to have learnt his lesson well.

 

The points table

Cricketers, especially those performing well, have a fan following which helps them attract the masses. But does this translate into political success?

A study conducted by India Today on 10 cricketers who joined politics- Chetan Chauhan, Kirti Azad, Mansoor Ali Pataudi, Manoj Prabhakar, Mohammad Azharuddin, Mohammad Kaif, Navjot Singh Sidhu, Praveen Kumar, Sreesanth, and Vinod Kambli. It was observed that out of the 10, 4 were fielded into politics by BJP- Chetan Chauhan, Kirti Azad, Navjot Singh Sidhu, and Sreesanth, and all but Sreesanth fared with a massive win in their debut elections. Out of the rest, only Azharuddin, an entrant through Congress, secured a win in his debut elections.

Observing the trends, it is early to decide if joining BJP seems a favourable choice for cricketers. However given the political dominance of the party and its expansion to regional politics, might pose as a better choice over other parties.

– by Rituparna Palit, Shivanand.S

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