The people’s verdict is out, and the profile of Punjab’s state assembly has got a boost with the induction of an Olympian in its 117-member fold.
Pargat Singh, the hockey legend who led the country in two Olympics (1992 and 1996) and is remembered for his brilliant solo goal in the 1985 Champions Trophy that saw him start from deep inside his own half and dribble past five opponents before scoring, will be seen rubbing shoulders with the stalwarts of the state’s political scene in the 14th Punjab assembly.
With this win, Pargat (46) got his name in the record books by becoming the country’s first-ever Olympian to enter into the state assembly. Pargat, who contested on a SAD ticket, defeated Congress candidate Jagbir Singh Brar by a margin of 6,798 votes to win the newly created Jalandhar Cantonment assembly seat.
Pargat, who was recruited by Punjab Police, left the force in December last year to join the state sports department. Upon the insistence of incumbent deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, Pargat decided to enter the political fray. “Being a sportsperson, my constituents easily recognised me. Since not much time was spent occupying the public mind space, I could straightaway explain my developmental plans during the interactions,” Pargat had said during his campaign.
Despite campaigning for just two weeks, the hockey Olympian emerged victorious. “People feel that my achievements on the sporting field will translate into performance in the public domain. Now that they have shown faith in me, I will not let them down,” said the elated hockey Olympian after the verdict.
During the elections, a number of former international sportspersons, some of whom flew down all the way from Canada and USA, came out in support of the hockey legend. “Whether as a sportsperson or an administrator, Pargat has always taken a stand for the benefit of sports. Now, after the public’s mandate, he will definitely live up to all his promises,” said Jagdish Singh Deol, who ran along with Milkha Singh to win gold in the 4x400m relay race at the 1962 Asian Games, while Col Balbir Singh, bronze medallist at the 1968 Olympics, added: “Jalandhar is known as the sports hub, and by electing Pargat, the city has lived up to its moniker.”
Pargat’s stint as the state sports director saw Punjab recovering lost ground, especially in its traditional stronghold of hockey. His initiative of bringing used six-a-side Astroturfs to the villages, dubbed the “green revolution” of the sport, gave players at the grassroots level a feel of the international playing surface.