Badminton champion Saina Nehwal tweeted congratulations to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath for "thumping victory" in local body elections ahead of the big state election next year.
The BJP romped home with 67 seats in the zila panchayat chairperson election where 75 seats were at stake. Akhilesh Yadav's Samajwadi Party won only five seats. The Rashtriya Lok Dal, Jansatta Dal and an independent candidate won a seat each. Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party did not fight the polls.
In comparison, back in the same election in 2016, Mr Yadav's party took 60 of the 75 seats.
"Hearty congratulations for thumping victory in Zila Panchayat Chairperson election in UP @myogiadityanath sir," tweeted Saina, who joined the BJP in January last year ahead of the Delhi Assembly polls.
The tweet prompted sharp reactions from the opposition parties.
Rashtriya Lokdal president Jayant Chaudhary called her a "sarkari shuttler".
सरकारी shuttler recognises BJP skill in smashing peoples' verdict!— Jayant Chaudhary (@jayantrld) July 3, 2021
I think voters need to play a subtle drop shot on celebs trying to influence their decisions! https://t.co/6rlxDk5I6L
Chairman minority department Tamil Nadu Congress Dr J Aslam Basha asked the ace player when will she stop playing.
Analysts say the local body polls are unlikely to be any indicator of which direction the wind will blow in the assembly election next year, seen as a primer for the general elections in 2024. Yet, the local body elections were keenly watched.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted about the win: "The glorious victory of BJP in the UP District Panchayat elections is the blessing given by the people for development, public service and rule of law. The credit for this goes to the policies of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and the tireless hard work of the party workers."
Uttar Pradesh has some 3,000 zila panchayat members.
Haryana-born Saina Nehwal, who is based in Hyderabad, is one of the most popular sportspersons in India with a huge fan following and brand value.
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.