Former Miss India and actor Gul Panag on Thursday joined Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and will be its candidate for Lok Sabha polls from Chandigarh, a place where she was born and describes as her “family’s home”.
Panag said that the country is at the threshold of transformational change which is being led by AAP and Arvind Kejriwal. “There is a time in every country’s history when staying on the side-lines is no longer an option. We are on the cusp of transformational change in the country that is being heralded by AAP and Arvind Kejriwal,” the 35-year-old actor said.
Panag was declared the AAP candidate by party’s senior leader Manish Sisodia at a chaotic press conference here. After comedian Bhagwant Mann, who is party nominee from Sangrur Lok Sabha seat, Panag is the second celebrity fielded by the AAP in the region.
Earlier, comedian Jaspal Bhatti’s widow Savita Bhatti was declared as the AAP candidate from Chandigarh seat, but she opted out of the race after reportedly failing to sync with local party activists.
Panag said that Chandigarh is “plagued” with the same issues — dynastic politics, corruption, crony capitalism — which the entire country is facing these days. Panag’s father Lt Gen (retd) H S Panag had joined the AAP last month.
She also described herself as a city girl to downplay the claims that she is a paratrooper selected by the AAP as she has no longer association with the city and lives in Mumbai.
“My roots are in Chandigarh. It’s been my family’s home since my grandfather Colonel Shamsher Singh settled here in 1965. It’s where I grew up, studied and it’s where my family lives. “I am delighted to be able to have an opportunity to contribute so directly to the welfare of my people and the country,” she said.
She also appealed the youth to join politics. “One must be part of the politics in the country to cleanse it,” she said, urging people “to join AAP’s movement to secure the future of next generations in the country.
“I cannot sit as neutral and be a fence watcher…to bring change in the country one need to jump into the political battle field,” Panag said. “If your conscious says you can bring change then certainly you can do so,” she said.
Born into a second generation armed forces family in Chandigarh in 1979, Panag has studied and lived across various cities in India due to her father’s frequent transfers. She recently returned to Chandigarh to complete her Masters in Political Science from Punjab University Chandigarh.
AAP open to people with ‘clean image’: Sisodia
Senior Aam Aadmi Party leader Manish Sisodia on Thursday said his party was meant for all with a “clear” track record, and not just for those who participated in the initial movement against corruption.
“There are plenty of people in the country who are good and have clear track record,” he said, after announcing former Miss India and actor Gul Panag as the party’s candidate for the Chandigarh Lok Sabha seat here.
Panag, who has also participated in the India Against Corruption movement, said that she feel honoured that she is contesting as an AAP candidate for the Chandigarh seat.
Panag has worked for gender equality, addiction awareness, education, employment and disaster management.
She also started her own NGO — The Colonel Shamsher Singh Foundation. The Foundation also runs an online volunteering portal the ‘Social Outreach and Accreditation Program’.
As an actor, she played powerful characters in Hindi films like Dhoop, Dor, Manorama Six Feet Under, Straight and most recently Punjabi film Sikander.
A serial half-marathon runner, Panag is the brand ambassador for ‘Pinkathon’, an all-women’s marathon that seeks to promote healthier lifestyle among women and raise awareness for breast cancer.
On her joining the politics, Panag said that “I chase dreams with a motive to achieve something.” Her message to the youth was “chase dreams and you will achieve something.”
She rejected assertion that she was not commoner, but a celebrity. “I am an actor and after doing acting I reached here (joined politics),” she said.
The main political parties Congress and BJP are yet to anounce candidate for the Chandigarh seat. At present Congress’ Pawan Kumar Bansal is sitting MP from the city.
Earlier, Sisodia met AAP workers in the city and came along with Panag to the press conference here to declare her as the party nominee. Before Panag could reply a volley of questions from media there was a total chaos with AAP activists, journalists and some outsiders shouting at each other.
AAP activists raised slogans at the venue and Sisodia left after introducing Panag to the media.