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India election - the candidates

Cricket and cinema go to the hustings

by Rosslyn Hyams

Article published on the 2009-04-24 Latest update 2009-04-30 09:12 TU

Not standing but dancing - Bride and prejudice, by Gurinder Chadha(Photo: AFP)

Not standing but dancing - Bride and prejudice, by Gurinder Chadha
(Photo: AFP)

In India cricket is far more than a national sport and cinema is the staple cultural diet. So what else is there to talk about when cricket and films merge with politics?

There was much talk of cricket in India ahead of the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. Security forces found themselves overstretched by the election and, after the attack on Sri Lanka's cricket team in Pakistan and last year's events in Mumbai, the Cricket World Championship was moved to South Africa.

Luckily for cricket-mad Indians, they will have seen some of the candidates more often on the wicket than in politics:

Former Test captain Mohammad Azharuddin is one of them. He joined the Congress party in February 2009. He’s a candidate in Moradabad in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. At 46-years-old, he has played in 99 Test matches. He has taken the Indian cricket authorities to court for imposing a life-ban on him in 2000, for match-fixing, a charge he denies. At home in the southern city of Hyderabad, Azharuddin has a tough challenge. Congress hasn’t won a seat in Morarabad constituency since 1984.

Cricketer-turned-TV commentator-turned-politician, Navjot Sidhu, has more political experience. The 45-year-old won a seat for the right-wing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the 2004 general election in Amritsar, the Sikh holy city. He’s also had a brush with the law. He was forced to resign after a conviction for manslaughter, relating to a road-rage incident. The Supreme Court stayed the conviction on appeal and he was able to stand in a by-election in 2007, winning the seat a second time.

Kirti Azad, who was on the Indian side which won the World Cup in 1983 is running for the BJP. He was ousted from a seat in Darbhanga in the 2004 elections, and wants to get it back. He had to be bailed out from police custody after breaking the election campaign code by travelling in a convoy of more vehicles than allowed?

Another BJP candidate and former cricket hero is Chetan Chauhan, he was a Test opening batsman in the 1980s and is a top cricket official in Delhi. He’s hoping to grab a seat in East Delhi.

Chetan Sharma, is a bowler who drew the ire of the country in 1986 because he allowed Pakistan to hit a six and win a one-day final. He is seeking a seat in Faridabad, in Haryana state for the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), a Dalit-based party.

Some of the heroes and heroines from India’s inimitable film (other) world are appearing on and off-screen, in the flesh, in real-life, on the back of trucks etc. to encourage voters to turn out:

Aamir Khan, star of films such as Rang de Basanti (Spring Colours) and Mangal Pandey -The Uprising, made a series of TV clips to get people to vote, but didn’t back any politician, only “good people”.

Screen tough-guy Sanjay Dutt is the Secretary General for the socialist Samajwadi Party in the city of Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh. He is on bail over a weapons conviction related to the 1993 Mumbai bomb, in which more than 250 people were killed. However, the Supreme Court showed no indulgence to Dutt, and refused to lift his conviction to allow him to run for a seat.

And of course, the list, as does the excitement and entertainment, goes on.