If we turn the pages of history, sports stars from across the world have turned their attention to politics after putting an end to their playing careers. From former Pakistan cricketer Imran Khan becoming the Prime Minister of his country, Arnold Schwarzenegger being elected as the 38th governor of California and boxer Manny Pacquiao in Philippines, footballer George Weah in Liberia and Garry Kasparov in Russia are some of the other examples.
Closer home, former cricketers Navjot Singh Sidhu and Mohammad Azharuddin continue to play an active role for their respective parties when it comes to campaigning and elections. Azharuddin, who won the Indian general election in 2009 from Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh to become Member of Parliament of India, failed to get a ticket for the 2019 elections. Meanwhile, Navjot won on a Bharatiya Janata Party ticket from the Amritsar seat in 2004 before joining the Indian National Congress party in January 2017.
Five former Indian sports stars contested in the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections and here is how they fared:
Vijender Singh, contesting for Congress, is trailing at the third spot behind Ramesh Bidhuri in South Delhi. Bidhuri won by 56.6% of the vote share – well ahead of Aam Aadmi Party’s Raghav Chadha (26.4%) and Vijender (13.6%). Vijender’s final tally read 1,64,613 votes.
The 33-year old Olympic bronze-medallist let go of his job with the Haryana Police and announced he was joining Congress to contest from the South Delhi constituency. The party hoped he would attract Jat and Gurjar voters. Vijender hails from village Kaluwas near Bhiwani.
Gambhir – a 2011 World Cup winner – was chosen to contest the elections from East Delhi constituency on a BJP ticket. The Padma Shri awardee and former Indian batsman, who retired from cricket in December last year after a 15-year stint, had joined the party in March, saying he was impressed by the vision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and would work for the country’s welfare as a member of the party.
Gambhir has made a smashing start to his political career with 55.3% of the votes for BJP in East Delhi Lok Sabha Constituency, well ahead of Congress’ Arvinder Singh Lovely (24.2%) and AAP’s Atishi (17.46%). Gambhir’s vote count read 6,96,156.
Shooter-turned-politician Rajyavardhan Rathore, who currently represents Jaipur Rural and is Minister for Information and Broadcasting, contested on a BJP ticket from Rajasthan’s Jaipur Rural parliamentary constituency. He successfully maintained his foothold in the area, overtaking his 62.44% share in 2014 to win 64.2% votes this time. He won by a margin of 3.93 lakh votes over the second place and fellow Olympian Krishna Poonia.
— Chowkidar Rajyavardhan Rathore (@Ra_THORe) 23 May 2019
The Sports Minister won a silver medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics, and gold at the 2002 and 2006 Commonwealth Games in Manchester and Melbourne respectively. During the four-year period, he won 25 medals at various international tournaments for the country.
Contesting against Rathore on the same seat is Krishna Poonia, a track-and-field athlete. She emerged second in the polling result with 33.8% of the votes. Her final tally read 4,26,961 or 33.4% of the votes.
Poonia won a gold medal at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi. The 36-year-old has competed in three Olympics and was awarded the Padma Shri in 2011. Poonia, who originally hails from Haryana, won last year’s Rajasthan assembly election from Sadulpur after losing in the previous election.
Cricketer-turned-politician Kirti Azad contested from the Dhanbad Lok Sabha constituency in Jharkhand for Congress and is trailing BJP’s Pashupati Nath Singh. Pasupati won by 66% of the votes as against Azad’s 27.2%. Nath had won the mandate in both 2009 and 2014 here.
The 1983 World Cup winning squad member Azad, a former BJP MP from Dharbhanga in Bihar had to shift out after the seat was given to the RJD as part of the seat-sharing arrangement for the alliance in the state.