Badminton champion Saina Nehwal joined the ruling BJP today and is likely to campaign for the party ahead of the February 8 Delhi election.
"I have won medals for the country. I am a very hardworking and I love hardworking persons. I can see Prime Minister Narendra Modi does so much for the country, I want to do something for the country with him," the 29-year-old shuttler said, wearing the BJP scarf after her induction.
"I am greatly inspired by Narendra sir."
Her older sister Abu Chandranshu Nehwal also joined the BJP.
Haryana-born Saina Nehwal, who is based in Hyderabad, is a major acquisition for the party in the middle of the Delhi poll campaign; she is one of the most popular sportspersons in India with a huge fan following and brand value.
She is preparing for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, so the timing of her political debut has raised eyebrows. Sources say the BJP was keen to have her on board at the earliest after realizing that its younger voters are slipping away in the wave of protests against the citizenship law CAA.
A former world number 1, Saina has been honoured with the country's top sporting awards like the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna and Arjuna Award. She was also awarded the Padma Bhushan in 2016.
The Badminton player has won over 24 international titles. In the London Olympics, she won a bronze. She was world number two in 2009 and number one in 2015.
With her tweets praising Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Saina Nehwal was widely seen to lean towards the BJP.
One of her tweets became controversial when it was found to be identical to several others in praise of a PM Modi speech last year. Saina was trolled on Twitter with screenshots of the identical tweets. She was also among the sportswomen who put up identical tweets on Diwali thanking PM Modi for his initiative to empower women, with the hashtag #bharatkilaxmi.
Saina's mother Usha Rani said she was very happy with her move. "Saina was doing well in sports and she will do well in politics also. BJP is doing good for the country, Saina is very hardworking and will work hard in this field as well," she told news agency ANI..
The BJP roped in many famous personalities last year, including cricketer Gautam Gambhir, who was elected MP from Delhi in the national election, and wrestler Babita Phogat. Just before the Haryana assembly polls, the party roped in wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt, Babita Phogat and former Hockey team captain Sandeep Singh. Sandeep Singh was the only one to win the election and was appointed minister.