Never before has the electoral scene in Punjab looked so sporty. In the run up to the assembly elections early next year, a host of former sports stars are warming up for the high-stake slugfest.
Leading the pack are cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu and former Indian hockey skipper Pargat Singh, who have forged a partnership by floating ‘ Awaaz-e-Punjab’, a fledgling political front that swears to take on the established players, the Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP combine and the Captain Amarinder Singh-led Congress.
Hedging their bets on a pre-poll alliance, the Sidhu-Pargat duo has so far emerged as a crucial player in what is increasingly seen as a four-cornered contest between SAD-BJP, Congress, Aam Aadmi Party and the Awaaz-e-Punjab.
Pargat, who got elected to the assembly as an SAD member in 2012, turned renegade recently and resigned from the Akali Dal following differences with deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal.
But they aren’t the only one. Many sports persons across the state who nursed political ambitions have jumped into the electoral fray. Many of them have joined the Aam Aadmi Party, which is expected to field a couple of them in poll fray. Here are other sporting figures having a field day in the political arena of poll-bound Punjab:
1. Rajpal Singh, former Indian hockey skipper, has become the face of the Parkash Singh Badal government’s publicity blitzkrieg on the contentious drug addicition problem that opposition parties are harping on to corner the ruling SAD-BJP alliance. He has lent his weight to the Akali campaign that says the opposition is exaggerating the drug menace and maligning the Punjab youth.
2. Sajjan Singh Cheema, Arjuna-awardee basketballer who represented India in 1982 Asian Games, is the AAP candidate from Sultanpur Lodhi. He joined the AAP in February this year after taking a premature retirement as a Punjab police officer.
3. Rajbir Kaur, a former captain of Indian women hockey team and Arjuna awardee, took premature retirement from a bank job and joined the AAP in June this year. She is likely to be the AAP candidate from her home town of Jalandhar.
4. Gurmail Singh, the husband of Rajbir Kaur and a member of the gold-medal-winning hockey team in the 1980 Moscow Olympics, has also thrown his lot with the AAP and is hoping for a ticket from the Doaba region.
5. Surinder Singh Sodhi, a former hockey Olympian, opted for premature retirement as an inspector general of the Punjab police and joined the AAP in June this year. He is expecting a ticket from Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar district.
6. Kartar Singh, a two-time Asian gold medallist wrester and a Padma Shri awardee, joined the AAP in April this year and is a potential candidate from his home turf in Tarn Taran