The BJP Friday fielded former India pacer S Sreesanth from Thiruvananthapuram seat even as it declared 50 other candidates for the Assembly polls in Kerala.
After a four-hour meeting, the Central Election Committee (CEC) of the BJP announced that Sreesanth had formally joined the party and would contest from Thiruvananthapuram.
Talking to reporters, 33-year-old Sreesanth said his name had been cleared by the court in a match-fixing case and he was, therefore, not worried about any Opposition attack on him regarding the controversy. A trial court in Delhi had dropped charges against him last year, but he still faces a ban on playing any form of cricket by the BCCI.
The cricketer had been keen to contest from Thrippunithara in Ernakulam district, but the party has already declared a candidate there, BJP sources said. The party had earlier considered actor Suresh Gopi for the Thiruvananthapuram seat.
Sources said it was party chief Amit Shah who played a key role in getting Sreesanth inducted in the party and fielded in a seat which BJP expects has high winnability.
In his primary rounds of discussions Friday with BJP general secretary in charge of organisation Ram Lal, the cricketer expressed his keenness to contest from Trippunithara, but the party had to persuade him to contest from Thiruvananthapuram, sources said. From Ram Lal’s residence, Sreesanth went to the party office where he met Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was there for the CEC meeting. Sreesanth then received the BJP membership from J P Nadda, Union minister in charge of Kerala, in the presence of Shah.
Sreesanth and two of his Rajasthan Royals teammates, Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan, were arrested by the Delhi Police during the 2013 Indian Premier League for alleged match-fixing and charged under the Maharashtra Control of Organized Crime Act (MCOCA).
In July last year, a trial court judge concluded that there was not enough evidence for the MCOCA charges to stick. Delhi Police had tried to link the cricketers’ alleged corrupt activities to Dawood Ibrahim but lack of evidence, as pointed out by the court, resulted in charges being dropped.
The decision did not alter the life bans imposed on the three cricketers by the Board of Control for Cricket in India, which had conducted its own inquiry. The Delhi Police special cell appealed against a trial court’s order in September last year, following which the court issued notices to the three cricketers and the others accused in the case. With PTI inputs.