Cricket stars, football great win in polls; disappointment for others

08:58 AM Jun 05, 2024 | PTI |

New Delhi: Cricket stars Kirti Azad and Yusuf Pathan turned out to be giant-slayers, while football great Prasun Banerjee held on to his political turf but a couple of others fell by the wayside on a mixed day for India’s sporting heroes who tried their luck in the general elections.


Para-athlete Devendra Jhajhariya (BJP), who has two Paralympic gold medals in javelin throw, and legendary former hockey captain Dilip Tirkey (BJD) conceded defeats in their respective seats of Churu (Rajasthan) and Sundargarh (Odisha).

But Azad and Yusuf, both fighting on Trinamool Congress (TMC) tickets, stamped their authority in the political battleground by registering upset wins.

Another sporting stalwart fighting on a TMC ticket was former football captain Banerjee, who won by 1.69 lakh votes from Howrah (West Bengal). It would be his third consecutive term representing the constituency in Lok Sabha.

Azad, a member of the 1983 World Cup-winning ‘Kapil’s Devils’, made a strong political comeback beating West Bengal BJP heavyweight Dilip Ghosh from Bardhaman-Durgapur constituency.


He defeated former BJP state chief Ghosh, who represented Midnapore constituency in his previous term, by a margin of 1,37,981 votes.

It came as a rude shock for BJP as Ghosh had also served as one of the national vice-presidents of the party from 2021 till 2023 and was a vocal critic of Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress government in the state.

Yusuf, who originally hails from Gujarat, also caused a major upset as he beat five-time Congress MP and incumbent leader of opposition in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury in West Bengal’s Bahrampur constituency by over 85,000 votes.

Azad, son of former Bihar Chief Minister Bhagwat Jha Azad, played seven Test matches and 25 One-Day Internationals for India between 1980 and 1986.

Azad is no novice to Indian politics. He was elected to Parliament for the first time from Darbhanga in Bihar in 1999. He was again elected to the Lok Sabha from Darbhanga for two consecutive terms in 2009 and 2014 on a BJP ticket.

Azad was suspended by the BJP in 2015 after he criticised the then Finance Minister the late Arun Jaitley over alleged corruption in the Delhi & District Cricket Association (DDCA).

He unsuccessfully contested the 2019 Lok Sabha elections from Dhanbad on a Congress ticket before switching allegiance to Trinamool Congress in 2021.

On the other hand, it was Yusuf’s maiden foray into politics.

Yusuf was a part of the Indian team that won the inaugural 2007 T20 World Cup in South Africa and was also a member of the side that clinched the 2011 ODI World Cup at home.

Jhajharia, also a first-time contestant, lost by 72,737 votes to Congress’ Rahul Kaswan from Rajasthan’s Churu constituency.

Tirkey, who is currently the head of Hockey India, also tasted defeat from his native Sundargarh constituency against BJP heavyweight and former Union minister Jual Oram.


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