With the induction of former cricketer Gautam Gambhir in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), it is only fair to look back at former cricketers who sought a political career the past. India Today Data Intelligence Unit has identified 10 famous cricketers who joined politics in independent India.
Now that former cricketer Gautam Gambhir has officially joined the Bharatiya Janata Party, speculation around his political career have started to rise. This is not the first time that cricketers are batting on the political pitch.
According to Historian Ram Guha, the first ever cricketer to join politics was Palwankar Baloo, a Dalit leader who contested for a by-election in Bombay Municipality in 1933-34 and lost to a Parsi doctor Homi F Pavri.
In 1937, the Congress party contested him against Bhim Rao Ambedkar. Baloo gave tough competition to Ambedkar, however he lost by a margin of more than 2,000 votes. The first Indian cricketer-turned-politician post independence was Nawab Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi who contested in 1971. Thus, the first cricketer-turned-politician of India was a Dalit and a Nawab.
Cricketers, especially those performing well, have a fan following which helps them to attract the masses. But does this translate into political success?
India Today Data Intelligence Unit has identified 10 famous cricketers of independent India who joined politics and assessed them on the basis of five parameters:
a) Joining a political party
b) Contesting a state assembly election
c) Contesting a Lok Sabha constituency election
d) Winning a state assembly election
e) Winning a Lok Sabha constituency election
Joining political parties
All the above mentioned politicians were launched by a political party. None of them contested as an independent candidate.
By launching four cricketers in politics, BJP tops the chart. Navjot Singh Sidhu (now in INC), Chetan Chauhan, Kirti Azad (now in INC) and Sreesanth’s political career started from BJP.
Next in line is the Congress party which gave wings to two cricketers, Mohammad Azharuddin and Mohammad Kaif. Even though the INC had given a ticket to Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi for Bhopal Lok Sabha constituency in 1991, he was first launched by Vishal Haryana Party from Gurgaon constituency in 1971.
Manoj Prabhakar, Vinod Kambli and Praveen Kumar joined All India Indira Congress (Tiwari), Lok Bharti Party and Samajwadi Party respectively.
Getting a ticket for state assembly polls
Only five out of the ten cricketers contested the state assembly elections. These names include Navjot Singh Sidhu (Congress), Kirti Azad (BJP), Chetan Chauhan (BJP), Vinod Kambli (Lok Bharti Party) and Sreesanth (BJP).
Getting a ticket for Lok Sabha polls
Political parties seem to be more interested in fielding cricketers in Lok Sabha polls rather than the state assembly polls. While the number of cricketers contesting in state assembly polls was five, there were seven cricketers who have contested for Lok Sabha polls.
Navjot Singh Sidhu (Amritsar), Kirti Azad (Darbhanga), Chetan Chauhan (Amroha), Mohammad Azharuddin (Moradabad), Manoj Prabhakar (South Delhi), Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi (Bhopal and Gurgaon) and Mohammad Kaif (Allahabad) have been given tickets to Lok Sabha polls by political parties in the past.
Winning a state assembly poll
The success rate of cricketers contesting a state assembly election is 60 percent.
Out of the five cricketers who contested the state assembly polls, only three recorded a victory. Out of the three winners, two are currently serving as Cabinet ministers in their respective state governments.
Navjot Singh Sidhu is an MLA from Amritsar East assembly seat in 2017 and holds the portfolio of Minister of Local Government, Tourism, Cultural Affairs, Archives and Museums in Punjab Government.
In 2017, Chetan Chauhan got elected from Naugawan Sadat (Amroha), Uttar Pradesh. He is currently the minister of Sports, Youth Welfare, Vocational Education, and Skill Development in the Uttar Pradesh government.
Kirti Azad became an MLA from Gole Market assembly seat, Delhi in 1993.
Sreesanth contested from the BJP’s ticket in Kerala assembly polls from Thiruvananthapuram seat in 2016 and lost to INC’s VS Sivakumar.
Vinod Kambli contested the 2009 Maharashtra Assembly election from Vikhroli seat in Mumbai where he managed to garner only 3,861 votes and lost to MNS candidate Mangesh Sangle by a margin of around 50,000 votes.
Winning a Lok Sabha election
The success rate of the ten cricketers mentioned contesting a Lok Sabha election is 57.14 per cent which is lower than the success rate of cricketers contesting in state assembly polls.
Out of the seven cricketers who contested the Lok Sabha polls, only four won a Lok Sabha election.
Sidhu, Azad and Chauhan have received victory in the Lok Sabha polls. Sidhu won Amritsar seat in 2004, Azad is serving his third term as Lok Sabha MP from Darbhanga and Chauhan has been an MP from Amroha in 1991 and 1998.
In 2015, the Bharatiya Janata Party suspended Kirti Azad after he levelled allegations against finance minister Arun Jaitley of being connected in irregularities in the Delhi district cricket association (DDCA)
In February 2019, Kirti Azad joined the Congress party.
Mohammad Azharuddin is the fourth cricketer who won the Moradabad Lok Sabha constituency of Uttar Pradesh in 2009.
INC’s Mohammad Kaif lost from his hometown Allahabad in 2014 Lok Sabha polls. Manoj Prabhakar contested from the South Delhi seat on All India Indira Congress (Tiwari)’s ticket in 1996 where he could manage only 3.34 per cent votes and lost.
Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi fought the Lok Sabha elections twice. First in 1971, from Gurgaon constituency on Vishal Haryana Party’s ticket which he lost as Indira Gandhi had gained popularity at that time.
He gave another try in politics in 1991, from Bhopal on INC’s ticket, however he lost it to the BJP candidate Sushil Chandra Verma. At that time, the Ram Janmabhoomi movement was on a rise that tolled his political career and he did not contest again.
Praveen Kumar, who joined the Samajwadi Party ahead of 2017 UP assembly polls said that he would take two to three years to learn politics and thus has not contested any of the elections.