New Delhi: He might not be in the best of his form in the ongoing cricket World Cup, but former Indian cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni could appear in the “captain’s role” once again. The cricket icon is set to take the political plunge and is likely to be the BJP’s face in the upcoming Jharkhand Assembly polls scheduled for October this year. Well-placed sources said Dhoni would be joining the BJP after his return from England where he is currently playing the cricket World Cup.
BJP sources said Dhoni would be roped in for electioneering in the state where the party will be fighting anti-incumbency and displeasure of the tribal population. Dhoni, a resident of the state capital Ranchi, enjoys great popularity among people of all classes and age groups in the state. With the BJP eyeing young voters primarily, Dhoni’s entry in the party would be of great significance.
Dhoni is preceded by his former teammate Gautam Gambhir who was made the BJP Lok Sabha candidate from East Delhi and won the seat with a record margin. A senior BJP leader said the party’s top leadership has been constantly in touch with Dhoni, but the latter decided to delay the decision till the World Cup was over. The ongoing tournament is in all likelihood Dhoni’s last World Cup. The development also assumes significance in the wake of growing clamour for his retirement given his performance which is far from impressive.
“Dhoni has assured that he will be joining the BJP. Central BJP leaders have been constantly in touch with him. A cricketer of his stature will be an asset for the party,” said a senior BJP leader privy to the developments. The BJP has been pursuing the matter with Dhoni since last year when the party began preparations for the Lok Sabha polls. BJP MP Manoj Tiwari, considered close to Dhoni since their early times, had also persuaded the cricketer to join the BJP. Later, BJP president Amit Shah also met Dhoni at his residence during the Sampark for Samarthan campaign. Rumours of Dhoni joining the BJP had begun since then.
Sources in the BJP said a clear cut role will be decided for Dhoni after he joins the party. In Jharkhand, the BJP is grappling with local issues, primarily displeasure of the tribal community. Also, unemployment among the youths could prove to be a dampener for the BJP. The BJP leadership has set the target of winning at least 65 seats in the 81-membeers Jharkhand Legislative Assembly. The decision was taken at the BJP’s Jharkhand unit’s core committee meeting headed by Amit Shah recently. The state unit leaders have been told to pay special focus on Santhal Pargana and Kolhan divisions that comprise 18 and 14 Assembly constituencies respectively with nearly 40% of the total strength of the Jharkhand Assembly.
Meanwhile, the BJP is beginning a state-wide membership drive from 6 July, with the target to add 25 lakh new members to the party. Chief Minister Raghubar Das, who will be looking to win the elections and seek a second term, will start the drive by launching a door-to-door campaign from his hometown Jamshedpur.