India vs Australia and its effect on Lok Sabha Elections 2024

NEW DELHI | Updated: 21 November, 2023 12:59 am IST
Modi at the dressing room of the Indian cricket team (Photo from Social Media)

NEW DELHI: As Australia defeated India decisively in the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup on Sunday, questions arose regarding the politicisation of the tournament with the Lok Sabha elections being only five months away in 2024.

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra of the Congress party, during a rally in Telangana, had highlighted that following the 1983 World Cup victory, former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had invited the players over for tea to celebrate their victory. Priyanka went on to say that since the finale was scheduled on the same day as the former PM’s birthday, the Indian cricket team would surely win. “Today is Indira Gandhi’s birthday and on this auspicious day, India will surely win,” she said.

On the other hand, Congress’ general secretary Jairam Ramesh had taken to X to post a video illustrating India’s World Cup victory in 1983. The video which was published by Ramesh showed the entirety of the cricket team led by ace skipper Kapil Dev visiting the reception held by Indira Gandhi to commemorate the team in their victory against the West Indies national cricket team.

The BJP’s national convenor of the IT Cell, Amit Malviya, also took to Twitter, releasing the clip from Priyanka’s rally stating, “Indira Gandhi ko ab log panauti bolenge (People will now call Indira Gandhi unlucky).”

On the other hand, many on the opposite end of the political spectrum took to pointing their pitchforks at the incumbent Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, who was called unlucky for being present in the stands as the match unfolded at his namesake stadium in Ahmedabad, Gujarat.

These allegations have been deemed to have formulated the framework concerning how the Lok Sabha polls are slated to go underway with the ICC World Cup, possibly earning India a sweet $2.4 billion.

In an opinion piece written by Congress leader Shashi Tharoor on October 13, he wrote, “In India, cricket is much more than a sport; it is also a political tool, a lucrative industry, a source of prestige, and among India’s most powerful levers for exerting global influence. None of this is lost on Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he prepares to seek re-election next year.” Further highlighting that the match being held at the Narendra Modi Stadium was also politically charged which was also an action that brought in heavy revenue for the state of Gujarat.

During the course of the World Cup, the most coveted match of the lot during the group stages against Pakistan, unfolded at the very same stadium as flight and hotel fares skyrocketed, with over 500 per cent hikes.

Praveen Rai, a political analyst from the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, said, “Indian cricket team’s victory in the 1983 World Cup changed its nature from a gentle man’s game into a pan-national commercialized entertainment with cricketers as demigods. The helming of cricket bodies with politicians and cricketers becoming MPs and MLAs, not only politicised the sport, but also became a political gimmick for electoral mobilisation. The matches between India and Pakistan became a substitute for war, fueling jingoism for gains by some political parties. Though the impact of India’s loss to Australia in the World Cup may not be so perceptible, politicians of all hues used the optics of consoling the fallen superheroes, to garner the support of cricket fans for National Elections 2024.”

More importantly, it is not just through economic presence that the incumbent government made its mark but also through Modi’s presence in the dressing room as he embraced the defeated men in blue, presenting them with more resilience. A picture of him embracing Mohammed Shami as tears rolled down his cheek has been doing the rounds of the internet, while another picture of BJP MLA from Gujarat, Rivaba Jadeja’s husband and cricketer Ravindra Jadeja also surfaced on X as he thanked the PM for visiting the team in the dressing room.

(Disclaimer: Political analyst, Praveen Rai from the Centre for Study of Developing Societies has been reached out to for further insight into how cricket is used for elections.)

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