There’s a new addition to the list of sportspersons who turned politicians in India!
Commonwealth Games gold medalist Krishna Poonia won the election to the Rajasthan Assembly, results for which were declared on Tuesday.
Contesting on the Indian National Congress (INC) ticket, Poonia defeated the sitting Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) MLA Manoj Nyangali by a margin of over 18,000 votes to win the Sadulpur assembly seat.
It was her second attempt at entering the state legislature; she had finished third after contesting on a Congress ticket in 2013.
Krishna Poonia had won a gold medal at the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games with a throw of 61.51 m. A year later, she was conferred with a Padma Shri Award.
Several sportspersons have made a successful transition to politics before Poonia. We take a look at 10 such sportspersons who turned politicians in the past.
1. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore (Shooting)
Shooter and Olympian Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore made the switch from sports to politics by winning the Jaipur Rural Lok Sabha seat in Rajasthan in 2014 on a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ticket.
He was subsequently made the Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting. In 2017, Rathore was elevated as a Cabinet Minister with independent charge for Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports.
He had won a silver medal in the Men’s Double Trap event in the 2004 Athens Olympics. Two years later, he won a gold medal at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games where he was also the flag bearer for the Indian contingent.
He is a recipient of the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, Arjuna Award, Ati Vishist Seva Medal (AVSM), and the Padma Shri.
Rathore had earlier served in the Indian Army and retired as a Colonel.
2. Navjot Singh Sidhu (Cricket)
Former Test cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu joined politics post-retirement in December 1999.
From 2004, he was a BJP Member of Parliament from Amritsar Lok Sabha constituency for 10 years. In 2016, the party nominated him as member of the Rajya Sabha. He resigned three months later and joined the Indian National Congress (INC).
He was elected to the Punjab Legislative Assembly from Amritsar East in 2017.
Navjot Singh Sidhu made his cricket debut for India in 1983. He played 51 Test matches and 134 One Day Internationals (ODIs) for the country.
Known for his witty comments on television and social media, he has appeared on several TV shows.
3. Nafisa Ali (Swimming)
From a swimmer to an actor and finally politician, Nafisa Ali swapped her career options many times. She is therefore an interesting member of the list of sportspersons who turned politicians.
The two-time national swimming champion,who dominated Indian swimming from 1972 till 1974, entered politics in 2004 by joining the Trinamool Congress (TMC).
She contested from the South Kolkata Lok Sabha seat in West Bengal but lost. Later, she was given a ticket by the Samajwadi Party (SP) in 2009 and contested the Lok Sabha elections from Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. She won the elections but re-joined Congress the same year.
4. Aslam Sher Khan (Hockey)
Aslam Sher Khan played a significant role in India’s famous title victory at the 1975 Men’s Hockey World Cup in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He had earlier represented India at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
He has been an active politician, Parliamentarian and union minister from Indian National Congress (INC).
1n 1997, he joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) but resigned two years later.
His autobiography, ‘To Hell With Hockey’, was published in 1982.
5. Mohammed Azharuddin (Cricket)
Former Indian Captain Mohammad Azharuddin represented India in 99 Tests and 334 ODIs.
He was suspended by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and banned for his alleged involvement in a match-fixing scandal in 2000.
Consequently, Azhar decided to take up politics as a career.
In 2009, he joined the Indian National Congress (INC) and won from the Moradabad LokSabha seat in Uttar Pradesh.
The Andhra Pradesh High Court lifted the BCCI ban in 2012.
The Bollywood movie Azhar,related to his life, was released in 2016.
6. Jyotirmoyee Sikdar (Track and Field)
Another prominent face in the list of sportspersons who turned politicians is athlete Jyotirmoyee Sikdar. She won a gold medal in 800 m at the Asian Athletics Championships in 1995, and bronze medals in 800 m and 1500 m in the Asian Athletics Championships in 1998.
She won gold medals in both the categories at the Asian Games held in Bangkok the same year.
In the 2004 Lok Sabha elections, Jyotirmoyee represented Krishnagar constituency in West Bengal with affiliation to the Communist Party of India (Marxist).
She was honoured with the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award for 1998-99, the Padma Shri in 2003 and the Arjuna Award in 1995.
7. Prasun Banerjee (Footballer)
Former captain of the Indian national football team and a defensive midfielder, Prasun Banerjee is perhaps the most prominent footballer in the list of sportspersons who turned politicians.
He entered politics in 2013, joining the Trinamool Congress, and was elected to the LokSabha in the same year. He won from the Howrah Sadar constituency in West Bengal.
He is the first Indian professional footballer to be elected as a Member of Parliament.
Prasun has represented India in over 100 football matches. His younger brother, Pradip Kumar Banerjee, has also captained the Indian football team.
8. Chetan Chauhan (Cricket)
Chetan Chauhan was a familiar sight when it came to opening the Indian Test innings with the legendary Sunil Gavaskar in a career spanning 12 years between 1969 and 1981.
While he starred in several century opening partnerships, he had the unfortunate distinction of never scoring a century himself in the 40 Test matches and seven ODIs that he played.
He joined politics some years after his retirement from first-class cricket in 1985. He fought and won the Lok Sabha elections on a BJP ticket from Amroha, Uttar Pradesh, in 1991. He won again in 1998.
He became a member of the UP Legislative Assembly in 2017 and was appointed as minister in the state cabinet.
9. Kalikesh Narayan Singh Deo (Shooting and Basketball)
Having represented the country in shooting and basketball international tournaments, Kalikesh Narayan Singh Deo was the youngest member of the Odisha Legislative Assembly prior to becoming a member of Parliament (MP).
He is a leader of the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and was a Member of Parliament in the 15th and 16th Lok Sabha.
He represented the Saintala constituency in 2004.
From his grandfather, Rajendra Narayan Singh Deo (former CM of Odisha) to his father Ananga Udaya Singh Deo, politics runs in K.N Singh Deo’s blood.
10. Kirti Azad (Cricket)
Kirti Azad is another prominent cricketer in the list of sportspersons who turned politicians.
The son of former Bihar Chief Minister Bhagwat Jha Azad,he played 7 Tests and 25 ODIs for the country from 1980 till 1986. He was also a part 0f the 1983 Cricket World Cup winning squad.
After cricket, Azad opted for politics and won from the Gole Market assembly constituency in Delhi on a BJP ticket in 1993.
He later contested, and won, from the Darbhanga Lok Sabha seat in Bihar in 1999. He was re-elected for two more terms, in 2009 and 2014.
(Note: This is not an exhaustive list. We have also not included sportspersons who have been nominated to the Rajya Sabha.)