Four of India's top sportspersons are endorsing the candidature of former sports minister Ajay Maken in the upcoming general elections. Sportstars such as MC Mary Kom, PT Usha, Bhaichung Bhutia and Vijender Singh are vouching for the candidate from the New Delhi Parliamentary constituency.
Even when Bhutia's own name figured in Trinamool Congress list from Darjeeling a couple of days after he recorded an advertisement in support of Maken, there were no rumblings within any of the rival parities simply for the reason that Bhutia believed in what he said.
Maken's camp conceived this idea almost two months back, and the first sportsman approached was 2008 Beijing Olympics boxing silver medallist Vijender.
"I had met Mr Maken many times when he was the sports minister and found that he was always ready to go out of the way to help any sportsman. So, when I was approached some two months back, my only answer was 'yes'," Vijender told dna on Monday.
However, Vijender was not ready to disclose the amount, if any, he charged to endorse the minister or if he, too, has a burning ambition to get into politics once his sports career is over.
Mary Kom has an altogether different story to tell. "This is not political at all," she repeated the line at least a dozen times during the conversation. "Mr Maken has done a great job for Indian sports and this is the sole reason that I did this endorsement 'free of cost' to show my gratitude."
Bhutia made no attempt to hide his appreciation for Maken for trying to bring in "New Sports Bill 2013" into Parliament.
"I was part of that committee that was instrumental in the formation of Sports Bill. It was commendable on his part how he supported the sportspersons and advocated their entry into all the National Sports Federations through this Bill. So when this offer came to me about a month back, I purely did it as a sportsman," said Bhutia, taking some time off from his hectic campaign.
It's a different matter altogether that Bhutia didn't even know at that time that he, too, would be getting to contest the upcoming Parliament elections.
"I still stand by what I said in support of Mr Maken as a sportsman. There is nothing political about it," Bhutia said.