No one’s quite sure about the statistics, but it’s probably a record of sorts that three Arjuna awardees ---- recipients of the country’s prestigious sporting honour --- are contesting the Punjab state assembly elections.
Former hockey star Pargat Singh, freestyle wrestling great Kartar Singh --- winner of two Asian Games gold --- and top Indian basketball player Sajjan Singh Cheema in the fray for a set in the Punjab legislative assembly. Not to forget, former Test cricketer and three-time Member of Parliament, Navjot Singh Sidhu, who is making his debut in
the assembly polls this time around.
Olympian Pargat Singh, who made his political debut in the last assembly elections, is defending his Jalandhar Cantt seat. Pargat The last time Pargat won the assembly seat was on the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) ticket, but at the fag end of his five-year tenure, he left the party and is defending his seat as a Congress candidate.
Pargat captained India at the 1992 Barcelona and 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games and was conferred the Arjuna in 1989 and Padma Shree in 1998.
Three-time Olympian, wrestler Kartar Singh, is contesting on Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) ticket from Tarn Taran. The wrestler, who won gold in the 1978 and 1986 Asian Games, retired as Inspector General of Police and was conferred the Arjuna in 1982 and the Padma Shree in 1987.Apart from Sushil Kumar and Yogeswar Dutt, he is the only other wrestler to compete in three successive Olympics ---1980, 84 and 88.
Former India basketball captain Sajjan Singh Cheema is making his political debut as an AAP candidate from Sultanpur Lodhi constituency. He was conferred the Arjuna in 1999. He comes from a family of basketball players --- his brothers Balkar Singh, Gurmeet Singh and cousin Kuldeep Singh Cheema --- also played at the international level.
Former Test cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu is making his debut from Amritsar East. As a BJP candidate, he became MP from Amritsar thrice and was nominated to the Rajya Sabha this year. He later resigned from the Upper House and quit the party. On Sunday, he joined the Congress and is their star campaigner. He is contesting from the same seat his wife won in the previous assembly elections.
In national politics
The 16th Lok Sabha has four international sportspersons. Athens Olympic Games silver-medallist RVS Rathore is Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting, while former international footballer Prasun Banerjee is a Trinamool Congress MP. BJP MP Kirti Azad was a member of the 1983 World Cup-winning team, while international shooter K Narayan Singh Deo is Biju Janta Dal MP. Cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar, woman boxer MC Mary Kom and hockey player Dilip Tirkey are Rajya Sabha members, while former India cricketer Laxmi Ratan Shukla is a minister in the Mamata Banerjee cabinet.