Sidhu ready to take guard in ~~second innings~~

Published: Friday, May 14, 2004, 23:53 [IST]
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New Delhi:Asian Games double gold-medallist Jyotirmoyee Sikdar won a seat in India's Parliament but the country's passion for cricket did not translate into votes for two former internationals.

Sikdar, who won golds in the 800m and 1,500m track events at the Bangkok Asiad in 1998, contested on a Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM) ticket in her home state of West Bengal and defeated her Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) rival by 20,389 votes.

But former Test cricketers Kirti Azad and Chetan Chauhan succumbed to the wave that swept the ruling BJP from power on Thursday.

Azad, a member of India's World Cup winning squad in 1983 who joined the BJP six years ago, was trounced in the Darbhanga constituency of Bihar by a margin of 1,43,000 votes.

Chauhan, better known as Sunil Gavaskar's opening partner in the late 1970s and a former BJP lawmaker, finished a poor fourth in the northern hill district of Amroha in a seat won by an independent candidate.

There was, however, good news for former Test batsman-turned commentator Navjot Sidhu, who made a spectacular entry into politics by winning from the holy Sikh city of Amritsar on the BJP ticket.

Sidhu, who was in Pakistan doing commentary on the recent Indian tour when the BJP asked him to contest the elections, defeated former minister Raghunandan Lal Bhatia by 98,248 votes.

"I am ready to take guard in the most important innings of my life," said Sidhu, whose witty remarks on TV have made him a popular cricket commentator.

Three leading sports administrators enjoyed mixed fortunes.

While sports minister Vijay Goel lost the election, there were victories for Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president Suresh Kalmadi and All-India Council of Sports chief Vijay Kumar Malhotra.

Sikdar, who joined politics after being ignored for a national award in 2000, vowed to fight for the betterment of athletes.

"In India, sportspersons are generally a neglected lot," the 32-year-old said. "I will not only work for the development of sports, but will also make sure the country has a definite sports policy."

That should be good news for Olympic medal hopeful Anju Bobby George, who on Thursday slammed the Government for neglecting sports.

"The Government has failed to do its duty in the improvement of sports," said George, whose bronze in the women's long jump at last year's world athletics championships was India's first track and field medal on the world stage.

"The ministers are not efficient," George said. "If an Indian manages to win a medal at the Athens Olympics, it will be only because of his or her hard work and not due to any help from the Government."

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