If sport is cheese, politics is usually chalk, and rarely do the twain mix. But in this year's Punjab election, a large number of people from the sporting fraternity will be seen playing the political ballgame.
SAD candidate and former India hockey captain Pargat Singh greets voters while campaigning in Jalandhar Cantonment constituency. Sikander Singh Chopra/HT
The seven sportspersons, who are in the race to enter the state's
117-member House, believe that they can draw upon their big-match experience to handle crises.
Making his political debut after giving up the post of state sports director is two-time Olympic hockey captain Pargat Singh. The former stalwart of Indian hockey is fighting on a SAD ticket from Jalandhar Cantonment.
Through international shotgun shooter Raninder Singh, Congress is eyeing the Samana seat. Raninder, who became the president of shooting's governing body, National Rifle Association of India, last year, had unsuccessfully fought the 2009 Lok Sabha elections from Bhatinda.
Raninder's father, captain Amarinder Singh, isn't just a former CM, the ex-armyman is also a shotgun shooter, and has won several medals for the state.
In fact, shooting is one sport that has always been well represented in the assembly elections. Rana Gurmeet Singh Sodhi — who represented the country in the 1978 Commonwealth and Asian Games and is a five-time winner of the national trap shooting team title — is contesting from Guru Har Sahai on a Congress ticket.
BJP's sitting MLA Sukhpal Singh Nannu, contesting from Ferozepur City, is a national-level shotgun shooter.
Among players of other sports, there's PPP chief Manpreet Badal. A former junior national basketball player, Badal is contesting from two seats — Gidderbaha, a constituency as well as Maur.
Then there's Manav Mehra, a member of Punjab's cricket team for five Ranji Trophy seasons from 1993 to 1998, who is testing his political strength from Mohali on a BSP ticket.