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Who was Sonali Phogat? Her career, rise to fame, and run-ins with controversies

BJP leader, TikTok star and actress Sonali Phogat courted controversy over asking people to chant ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ during an election campaign in 2019 and for hitting an officer with her slippers a year later

BJP leader and actress Sonali Phogat during 75th Independence Day celebrations. (Twitter/@sonaliphogatbjp)

From a humble beginning as an anchor on Hisar Doordarshan to her rise to fame as a TikTok star, actress and Big Boss contestant, BJP leader Sonali Phogat, 42, who died Monday night of a heart attack in Goa, was no stranger to controversies.

Phogat was born on September 21, 1979 in Bhuthan, a small village in Hisar. Her father is a farmer and she has three sisters and a brother. She did her schooling at Pioneer Convent School, Fatehabad, Haryana and completed her Arts degree from Maharshi Dayanand University, Haryana.

She began her professional career in 2006 as an anchor in Hisar Doordarshan and two years later, joined the BJP’s national working committee where she was appointed the national vice-president of the BJP’s Mahila Morcha.

A few years later, Phogat left anchoring and started taking on acting roles. It was while she was in Mumbai pursuing her acting career, in 2016, that her husband Sanjay Phogat was found dead under mysterious circumstances near his farmhouse in Hisar district.

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Phogat, who acted in a few Haryanvi movies, worked with actors like Jimmy Shergill and Ravi Kishan. She also played the role of the wife of Nawab Shah in ‘Amma’, a show aired on Zee TV. In 2019, she also appeared in the web series ‘The Story of Badmashgarh’ directed by Ameet Choudhary.

A popular Tik-Tok star, Phogat was nominated from Adampur Assembly constituency against then Congress nominee Kuldeep Bishnoi in 2019. She got embroiled in a controversy when she gave an alleged hate speech during her election campaign in Balasmand village of Adampur constituency. She asked people to chant ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ slogans and said that those who did not do so must be from Pakistan, a remark for which she was criticised and later had to apologise. Phogat lost to Bishnoi in the election.

A year later, in 2020, she shot into the limelight after news broke that she would be a part of the television reality show Bigg Boss Season 14. She entered the show hosted by actor Salman Khan as a wild card contestant on day 81.

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She was involved in yet another controversy when a video where she was seen hitting an officer with her slippers went viral on social media. The incident took place on June 5, 2020, when she had visited the officer with a list of farmers’ complaints.

Phogat, who had also worked for the BJP in the tribal areas of Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh, was also made the head of the BJP’s tribal wing in several states like Haryana, Delhi and Chandigarh.

Phogat, who had gone to Goa along with some of her staff members, according to people close to her, was only 42 years’ old. “It is really sad news,” said BJP state president Om Prakash Dhankar. BJP’s Hisar district president Capt Bhupender confirmed that she was with her associates. “We heard about an hour ago that she suffered a cardiac arrest and passed away. Certain formalities are being completed there at Goa after which her body shall be brought to Haryana,” Capt Bhupender added.

First published on: 23-08-2022 at 12:02:52 pm
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