The Telegraph
Thursday , March 13 , 2014
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Phew! Good timing by Sehwag & IPL

New Delhi, March 12: The Congress may not be confident of forming the next government but could have owned its own IPL team had the plan to rope in several cricketers for election fructified.

Ironically, it was the real IPL that nipped the purported plan in the bud — and perhaps helped the players steer clear of a tricky pitch.

Congress sources claimed that the leadership had contacted Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan Singh to be fielded in Delhi, Punjab and Haryana in the 2014 Lok Sabha election.

Sehwag was enthusiastic about the proposal but he wanted to play his last IPL that coincides with the general election schedule.

Yuvraj and Harbhajan thought a lot of cricket was still left in them, the Congress sources said. The cricketers could not be contacted for comment.

Sehwag’s sister is in the Congress. But Sehwag wanted to make a mark in this IPL to send out a message to his critics who wrote him off.

A senior Congress leader said: “We missed Sehwag by a whisker, otherwise one seat was certain and his presence would have sent a powerful message to the youths.”

The Congress is now hoping that Sehwag can be spotted walking in the streets with folded hands, not swinging his bat, as and when the next election takes place. By then, even Yuvraj and Harbhajan may not be averse to testing the political pitch, though no party can guess which group they may side with.

The Congress, which made cricketer Mohammed Azharuddin a Lok Sabha member in 2009, has fielded another player, Mohammed Kaif, from Phulpur in Uttar Pradesh this time.

With Sachin Tendulkar already nominated by the party to the Rajya Sabha, the Congress could have tried to put together an IPL team. Cricket administrators Sharad Pawar and Rajeev Shukla are in the UPA, making the task of wooing the out-of-business stars easier for the party.

The reliance on celebrities has its own pitfalls as they tend to use their stardom to attract voters for once and then return to the glamour world instead of working in their constituencies.

The example of Azharuddin is haunting the Congress. Some voters of his constituency Moradabad are so angry with him that he is hunting for a safe seat in different parts of the country. His first preference was Bengal.

Surprisingly, another celebrity, Raj Babbar, who, too, is keen to abandon his constituency Firozabad, is in demand from several states. Babbar, who created a storm in political circles by defeating Mulayam Singh Yadav’s daughter-in-law Dimple Yadav in Firozabad, has to look for another seat as the Congress is no more in a mood to annoy Mulayam Singh any further. Sources said at least five state units had offered the seat for Babbar.

Babbar is different from most other celebrities who sweep into the political arena without any interest or conviction and flee when they realise charisma alone cannot sustain their career. Actors like Govinda and Dharmendra won the election once and quit in disgust.

Babbar, however, is cast in the mould of Sunil Dutt who became a full-time politician despite continuing his acting career.

Babbar, who was first elected to the Rajya Sabha in 1994, won the Agra Lok Sabha seat twice in 1999 and 2004 from the Samajwadi Party before joining the Congress to contest Firozabad.

Sources said the Congress also approached Sharmila Tagore, the actress wife of former Indian captain Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, to contest the elections but she declined.

The Congress, however, succeeded in attracting Bhojpuri superstar Ravi Kishen in Uttar Pradesh and Aparjita Mohanty in Odisha. Sitting MP and Kannada star Ramya has again been given a ticket to contest while Andhra actor Chiranjeevi has been made the campaign committee chief in the state.