'Dangal girl' now in Haryana's political dangal

Wrestler Babita Phogat. PTI file photo

As assembly polls approach Haryana, the BJP has sought to cash in on the charisma of ‘Dangal’ girl of real-life, international wrestler Babita Phogat, who is a native of the state.

Phogat and her father Mahavir Phogat, a noted wrestling coach, joined the BJP on Monday in presence of Sports and Youth Affairs Minister Kiren Rijiju and party's general secretary in-charge of Haryana Anil Jain.

The move comes at a time when the BJP’s experiment of propping a non-Jat Chief Minister has paid off and other parties that banked on Jat leaders earlier, Congress earlier headed by Bhupinder Singh Hooda and Indian National Lok Dal headed by Om Prakash Chautala’s are staring at vacuum.

The BJP believes the induction of Phogats, now a household name in Haryana will help it politically. Phogats from the conservative Jat community had broken stereotypes when joining wrestling that inspired Amir Khan-starrer Bollywood movie “Dangal”.

Phogat is likely to be fielded in polls in the state, where mainstream politics is heavily male-dominated. Deepa Malik, the first Indian to win a medal at the Paralympic Games, who had joined the BJP in March, is also likely to be fielded.

How much muscle Phogat, who belongs to Jat community ends up adding to the saffron party headed by its non-Jat Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, remains to be seen.

Three-time Olympian Krishna Poonia contested the 2019 general election as Congress candidate in Rajasthan but lost. Nafisa Ali, two-time national swimming champion won Lucknow Lok Sabha seat as SP candidate in 2009 and later joined Congress.

Jyotirmoyee Sikdar, who had won two gold medals in 1998 Asian Games in Bangkok became a Lok Sabha MP from CPI-M from Krishnanagar in West Bengal in 2004.

Generally, those from the field of sports have found it tough to negotiate the rough and tumble of Hindi heartland politics. Many cricketers found the political pitch too bouncy and footballers ended up scoring a self-goal when they joined political parties.

Successful sports celebrities:

Former cricketer Gautam Gambhir (BJP): Won the 2019 Lok Sabha polls from East Delhi.

Footballer Prasun Banerjee (TMC): Won from Howrah in three consecutive Parliamentary polls since 2013.

Olympian Rajyavardhan Rathore (BJP): Won two successive Lok Sabha polls in 2014 and 2019 from Rajasthan.

Skipper Mohd Azharuddin (Congress): Won 2009 Lok Sabha polls from Moradabad but lost from Rajasthan in 2014. Now he is the working president of Congress in Telangana.

Former cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu: Won Lok Sabha elections twice as BJP candidate and was nominated to Rajya Sabha in 2016 from Punjab. In 2017, he joined Congress and became an MLA in Captain Amarinder Singh government. Recently he resigned.

Former cricketer Chetan Chauhan (BJP): Won from Almorah Lok Sabha seat in UP twice, now he is Minister for Youth and Sports in Uttar Pradesh.

Failed sports celebrities

Cricketer Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi: Lost the 1971 general elections from Gurgaon as a candidate of Vishal Haryana Party and from Bhopal in 1991 as Congress nominee.

Former football captain Bhaichung Bhutia: Contested 2014 Lok Sabha polls; 2016 Assembly polls from TMC but lost both.

Former cricketer Mohammed Kaif (Congress): Lost from Phulpur Lok Sabha seat in 2014.

Former hockey captain Dilip Tirkey (BJD): Lost from Odisha’s Sundargarh constituency in 2014 after having been elected to Rajya Sabha from the same party in 2012.

Former hockey captain Pargat Singh: Joined Shiromani Akali Dal in 2012, suspended from it in 2016. Joined Congress and resigned later.

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