January 18, 2017

Indian basketball legend Sajjan Singh Cheema to run for AAP in Punjab elections

Sajjan Singh Cheema has collected more than his share of accolades to be part of Indian basketball's hall-of-fame. The former Punjabi superstar played for India in the FIBA Asia Basketball Championship teams in 1981, 1983, and 1985, and represented the country in the Asian Games in 1982. In 1983, he was honoured with the Maharaja Ranjit Singh Award. Cheema retired from the game in 1994, and in 1999, he joined a select list of basketball players to win the Arjuna Award, one of the highest honours for Indian athletes.

Off-the-court, Cheema turned his attentions further into public service, serving as an SP (Superintendent of Police) with Punjab Police and additionally the Deputy Commissioner of Police (Traffic) in Ludhiana. Last year, however, Cheema became the latest in a long line of former Punjabi athletes to turn their attentions towards politics when he quit his job with the Punjab Police Service and joined the state's Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), amidst the atmosphere of some internal feud within the party itself.

Now, with the Punjab elections on the horizon, Cheema will get a chance to become a rookie in a whole different sport. Cheema will make his election debut as he will contest as an AAP candidate from Sultanpur Lodhi constituency in the 2017 Punjab Legislative Assembly election, set to be held on February 4. The current ruling coalition in Punjab is Shiromani Akali Dal - Bharatiya Janata Party alliance led by Parkash Singh Badal.

Cheema was born in 1957 in Dabulian village in Kapurthala district in Punjab state. He studied at Kamalia Khalsa High School Kapurthala and at Sport College Jalandhar. He started playing basketball in 1976 and first participated in Inter university tournament held in Jaipur in 1976. Cheema comes from a family of basketball players, as his brothers Balkar Singh and Gurmeet Singh and his cousin Kuldeep Singh Cheema also played at the international level.

As far as I'm aware, Cheema will be the first person to represent India in basketball to make the substitution into electoral politics. It's going to be an athletic election in Punjab, as Olympic wrestlers Pargat Singh, Kartar Singh, and of course former Test Cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu in the polls.

In case you're curious to learn more about Cheema and his political priorities, here is an enlightening interview he did with The Tribune last year. Cheema has experience with the anti-riot police and one of his main agendas is to tackle the rising drug "mess" in Punjab.

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