Saina Nehwal enters a different court, like these other sportspersons
Badminton player Saina Nehwal is the latest sportsperson to take a plunge into politics by joining the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Nehwal has been playing at the top level for a decade and a half, and has won 24 international titles, including an Olympic medal.
Last year, a number of sportspersons including cricketer Gautam Gambhir and wrestlers Yogeshwar Dutt and Babita Phogat joined the BJP. While Dutt joined the BJP on September 26, along with former captain of India hockey team Sandeep Singh, Phogat, also a fellow Olympic medallist, had joined the party on August 12 last year.
Singh won from Pehowa in Haryana during the Assembly elections last year, but Dutt and Phogat lost their respective electoral battles.
Babita, who is the daughter of legendary coach Mahavir Singh Phogat - whose character was played by actor Aamir Khan in film ‘Dangal’ - hails from Balali village that falls under the Badhra constituency. Babita’s father had earlier joined Dushyant Chautala’s Jannayak Janta Party and was also named its sports cell in-charge, but he, along with his daughter, later joined the BJP.
Singh, who was seriously injured after being hit by an accidental gunshot in Shatabdi Express in 2006 only to make a gritty comeback, hails from Shahbad in Haryana. His injury and his comeback inspired Bollywood movie Soorma in which Diljit Dosanjh played the main character.
Gambhir won the Lok Sabha elections last year from East Delhi constituency.
Olympic shooting medallist Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore joined the BJP before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and became a Member of Parliament after winning from Jaipur Rural. Rathore, a Union Minister in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet, faced fellow Olympian Krishna Poonia in 2019 who fought from Jaipur Rural on a Congress ticket. Rathore won the electoral battle.
Singers Manoj Tiwari and Babul Supriyo, actors Paresh Rawal and Kirron Kher, columnist Pratap Simha, former army chief VK Singh, former Union home secretary RK Singh, former Mumbai police commissioner Satyapal Singh and former bureaucrat Udit Raj were other prominent people who were fielded by the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections 2019, and they all won.
Other parties too have followed the practice of wooing high-profile candidates from other professional backgrounds. In 1984, the actor Amitabh Bachchan fought from Allahabad on a Congress ticket, but his political career was short-lived as he quit before his term ended. Congress also gave tickets to actor Govinda and the former cricket captain Azharuddin, both of whom won.