New Delhi, Oct. 21: The Madhya Pradesh Congress has included the names of Sachin Tendulkar and Rekha in the list of its star campaigners, sources said, but the party did not confirm if the two have agreed to take up such an assignment.
The state unit has not yet submitted the list of star campaigners to the Election Commission. Madhya Pradesh is going to the polls in November and every party has to submit a list of star campaigners to the Election Commission so that the expenses on their tours can be added to the party’s account.
Sources said Sachin and Rekha had been approached for campaigning in the Madhya Pradesh polls but the party leaders declined to reveal the responses.
If the final list of the state unit does include the names of the cricketer and the actress, it will mean either that they have agreed to campaign or that the party is hoping that they could be persuaded to join the trail at some stage.
Sachin, who has announced his retirement from international cricket after his 200th Test next month, and Rekha are nominated members of the Rajya Sabha. The nominated members can join political parties but neither has so far shown any interest in becoming a member of the Congress.
Congress leaders had been privately speaking of a campaign by Sachin and Rekha in the 2014 parliamentary elections, saying the two should have no problem in supporting the party’s secular and inclusive ideals.
The stress on secularism is being seen as an indirect reply to Narendra Modi but the Congress has so far not taken any formal step to co-opt Sachin and Rekha.
The Madhya Pradesh unit’s move to test the waters is the first tangible step towards that direction.
Jyotiraditya Scindia, the Congress campaign chief in the state, is president of the Madhya Pradesh Cricket Association and his late father Madhavrao Scindia was a powerful cricket administrator with close personal ties with Sachin.
Jyotiraditya, too, shares a good rapport with Sachin and the Madhya Pradesh leaders are banking on the young politician to draft in the cricket legend to campaign for the party.
Asked if Rekha and Sachin had agreed to campaign, a senior leader hedged and sought to focus on what the party was hoping for. “When we brought them to Parliament, the message was clear that they don’t have any problem associating with the party. We are sure they will campaign for us, both in the Assembly and parliamentary elections. Both Sachin and Rekha are committed to a secular polity,” the Congress leader said.
But none confirmed if the party had taken their permission to include their names in the list of star campaigners.
Nomination by a party to the Rajya Sabha does not mean that the nominee has anything to do with the particular political formation.
But the Congress had flaunted Sachin and Rekha as trophies when they made it to the upper House in 2012, by when the political climate had turned hostile to the ruling party and the Manmohan Singh government was being battered on multiple fronts.
Both Sachin and Rekha had gone to 10 Janpath to meet Sonia Gandhi. Minister Rajiv Shukla, a key BCCI official, had played a crucial role.
Although neither Sachin nor Rekha has spoken much in the Rajya Sabha, the Congress feels that campaigning by the two will be a morale-booster and can influence the discourse at a time Modi appears to be setting the talking points.
Sanjay Dutt, Salman Khan, Zeenat Aman, Raza Murad, Mahima Chowdhary, Shakti Kapoor and Nagma had campaigned for Congress candidates in the past.
Actor Govinda was the party’s MP while Raj Babbar is a sitting Lok Sabha member. Lyricist Javed Akhtar, too, was nominated to the Rajya Sabha by the Congress.
Congress leaders are also hoping that Sharmila Tagore will play an active role in electioneering in 2014.