Games people play: Sporting stars seek glory on poll field
New Delhi, March 26, 2014
First Published: 15:40 IST(26/3/2014)
Last Updated: 15:51 IST(26/3/2014)
From 'Sikkimese sniper' Bhaichung Bhutia to Olympic-medallist shooter Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, the Lok Sabha elections this time has a bevy of renowned personalities from the world of sports.
Bhutia, a former India captain and the country's most-capped footballer, is the Trinamool Congress candidate for the Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat.
The recipient of many accolades and honours, including Arjuna Award and Padma Shri, Bhutia announced his retirement from international football in August, 2011.
Having made his name in football as a striker who rarely missed an opportunity to score, Bhutia has now set a different and bigger goal for himself, to secure the Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat for the Mamata Banerjee-led TMC.
If Bhutia is looking to score a win in the hills, former India cricketer Mohd Kaif, known for his fielding skills and ability to get quick runs, will be hoping he emerges on top in the fight for the Phulpur Lok Sabha seat in Uttar Pradesh.
Kaif represented India in 13 Tests and 125 ODIs.
His last outing for the country was in 2006, but he remains an active cricketer in the domestic circuit for Uttar Pradesh.
At 33 years, Kaif does not quite fit into the mould of the venerable Indian political leader, but what the Congress would be counting on is his record of securing big achievements at a young age.
Kaif first hogged the limelight for his performances as part of India's under-19 squad. He had captained the side, which also included Yuvraj Singh, that won the Youth World Cup of 2000.
Kaif is not the only cricketer in the Congress candidates' list.
Former India captain and current MP Mohd Azharuddin is also in the fray, this time from the Tonk-Sawai Madhopur seat in Rajasthan.
Azharuddin played 99 Tests and 334 ODIs for India before he retired to pursue a career in politics.
Azharuddin is the sitting MP from Moradabad, but Congress decided to move him to the Rajasthan seat after handing the ticket for his present constituency to Begum Noor Bano.
Although Azharuddin's 15-year-old international career was cut short by allegations of match-fixing in 2000, he seems to have reinvented himself as a leader in the political field.
A life ban was imposed on Azharuddin, but he appealed against it in the court. In November, 2012, his ban was lifted by Andhra Pradesh High Court.
BJP has in its ranks Rathore who is contesting from the Jaipur (rural) seat in Rajasthan. Rathore rose to fame after winning the silver in the men's double trap event at the 2004 Athens Olympics.
He was the first sportsperson to win an individual silver for India since the 1900 Paris Olympics. He hails from Jaisalmer in Rajasthan.
Another sportsman who will have his target set on ensuring a return to Parliament is Naveen Jindal, the Congress nominee from Kurukshetra and a national record holder in skeet shooting.
Jindal, who is the sitting MP from Kurukshetra, wears several caps -- the scion of the Jindal business family is also the chairman of Jindal Steel and Power Ltd.
Apart from having represented the country in the Busan Asian Games in South Korea in 2002, Jindal has won numerous medals in shooting at national and international levels.
He also excels at Polo and the JSPL Polo team has won several laurels under his captaincy.
Former national hockey captain Dilip Tirkey, currently a Rajya Sabha member, will fight the Lok Sabha elections from Sundargarh in Odisha on a Biju Janata Dal (BJD) ticket.
He is pitted against former union minister and BJP candidate Jual Oram and former chief minister Hemananda Biswal of Congress.