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Gautam Gambhir Quits Politics, BJP Considered Him as a Candidate for 2024 Elections



Hours before the BJP released its first list of Lok Sabha candidates on Saturday, the party’s East Delhi MP and former cricketer Gautam Gambhir announced his decision to quit politics and return to the sport, stumping many including those in the BJP.

A source in the BJP said the “party was looking to repeat him as a candidate, even if not from East Delhi or a seat in the capital” and that this decision “was conveyed to him”. The source said that at an organisational meeting that preceded the BJP’s Central Election Committee (CEC) meeting on Thursday night, where the names for the first list were drawn up, “a senior Union Minister” described Gambhir as the “the perfect candidate” who could ensure an additional 370 votes per booth in his Lok Sabha constituency – a target the BJP leadership has set in order to win 370 seats.

The BJP insider said Gambhir was now considering taking on cricket administration duties “at least in Delhi, if not the country”. It was in fact the cricket administration that led Gambhir to take up a political career. Leaders in Delhi BJP said Gambhir shared a close relationship with former Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and his family. Gambhir is said to have closely observed Jaitley’s tenure as the president of the Delhi & District Cricket Association (DDCA) that began in the late 1990s. He held on to the post till he passed away in 2019. It was at Jaitley’s advice, the leaders say, that Gambhir made the switch to politics.

“Arun ji asked him to make the decision on the heels of the announcement of a Padma Shri for Gautam in March 2018. Gambhir agreed to join the party and followed instructions to become more active and expressive on nationalism on various media,” a leader said.

Gambhir would do exactly that and joined the BJP in March 2019, also continuing as a cricket commentator. Gambhir was named the BJP’s East Delhi Delhi soon after and riding the BJP wave in Delhi —- the party won over 56% of the vote share in the city — he polled seven lakh votes and clinched the seat.

Though the entry into politics was smooth, Gambhir’s tenure remained a turbulent one. He repeatedly took on Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) supremo Arvind Kejriwal “over the promise of transforming the capital into a World Class city” and often got into heated exchanges with AAP leaders.

But it was the problems within the party that caused him much discomfort. In 2019 itself, there were a few murmurs in Delhi BJP circles about Gambhir’s absence from party meetings as well as run-ins with colleagues. The local cadre, it is learnt, complained to the BJP leadership about Gambhir missing from organisational meetings, even crucial ones such as the BJP national council meeting in February that saw the participation of the PM and other Union Ministers.

His outspokenness, both online and offline, also emerged as an issue within days of his assuming office. In May 2019, Gambhir took to Twitter (now X) to condemn an attack on a Muslim man in Gurgaon who was allegedly thrashed and asked to raise Hindu slogans. Gambhir called for “exemplary action” against the accused in the case and underlined that India was “a secular nation”.

Then Delhi BJP president Manoj Tiwari agreed that the incident was “deplorable”, as Gambhir had dubbed it, but is also learnt to have issued a word of caution to the effect that “one should avoid reacting to reports” where an investigation is underway.

A Delhi BJP leader said Gambhir allegedly had a confrontation with two BJP legislators representing constituencies in East Delhi at a June 2023 event where Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman was present. “Many of those present at this event were the people who were not only part of his election campaign but also assisted him consistently after he became MP,” said the BJP functionary.

These problems aside, BJP leaders admit that Gambhir built a strong base in East Delhi through his community and social work. These include Jan Rasois or community kitchens; transforming garbage collection points into libraries post-sanitisation; and consistently talking about reducing the height of the Ghazipur landfill. He also started the East Delhi Premier League that gives young cricketers from poor families a chance to display their skills.

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