A cricketer to media baron to Member of Parliament, Ashwini Kumar Chopra, a.k.a. Ashwini Minna, played several innings in different fields of his life. On Saturday, he breathed his last at a private hospital in Gurgaon after prolonged illness. He was 64.
Chopra was diagnosed with cancer in 2018. Wife Kiran Chopra and sons, Arjun, Aakash and Aditya survive him.
Chopra represented Karnal, Haryana, in Lok Sabha from 2014 to 2019. The BJP had offered to renominate him in 2019 Lok Sabha polls too, but Chopra refused, citing ill-health.
In 2014, his maiden Lok Sabha election, Chopra had defeated Congress’s Arvind Kumar Sharma by a margin of over 3.6 lakh votes.
Chopra belonged a family of victims of terrorism in Punjab. His grandfather Lala Jagat Narain, former Punjab minister, Member of Parliament and owner of Jalandhar’s ‘Hind Samachar’ group of newspapers, was killed by terrorists in 1981. Not yet 30 then, he soon received another jolt. In 1984, terrorists gunned down his father, Romesh Chander, in Jalandhar. Chander was editor of the family-owned Hind Samachar group of papers, which also published leading Hindi daily ‘Punjab Kesari’.
After graduating from DAV College, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, Chopra completed a diploma course in Journalism from Panjab University, Chandigarh.
According to close aides, Chopra wanted to pursue his passion — cricket — as a career, but imposition of Emergency in 1975 changed his life and he joined the family’s newspaper business.
After Emergency was lifted in 1977, Chopra went to the United States to study journalism and worked at the ‘San Francisco Chronicle’ for a brief while.
Before stepping into full-time journalism, where he also headed ‘Punjab Kesari’ as its editor-in-chief in New Delhi, Chopra represented Punjab in Ranji Trophy cricket — he played 25 first-class games between 1975 and 1980. A leg-spinner, he had played with the likes of Sunil Gavaskar, Vivian Richards and Bishan Singh Bedi, among other cricketers.
The last rites will be performed at Nigambodh Ghat, New Delhi, on Sunday morning, according to the family.
As a politician, Chopra got into a rift with BJP soon after he was elected an MP in 2014. In the Haryana Assembly polls in October that year, Chopra had reportedly expressed resentment at not being consulted by the party in ticket distribution in his own constituency. He was reportedly also against Manohar Lal Khattar being made the chief minister.
Chopra, who was known for his front page editorials in ‘Punjab Kesari’, had reportedly irked the party’s leadership for praising the Congress and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra in one editorial.
During Khattar’s first tenure, he faced frequent criticism from Chopra over his style of functioning and apparent lack of control on the state’s bureaucracy.
Chopra was known for his friendship with politicians across party lines. On Saturday, leaders from Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, and Haryana CM Khattar to Punjab CM Capt Amarinder Singh and Akali Dal president Sukhbir Badal, among many others, expressed condolences to the bereaved family.
Modi tweeted, “Anguished by the passing away of Shri Ashwini Kumar Chopra ji. He will be remembered for his contribution to the media world. He worked diligently as a public representative and undertook many community welfare initiatives…”
In her condolence message, Sonia said Chopra’s long and distinguished innings as an editor, and also as a social worker and MP, will be long remembered. Amarinder tweeted, “…A big void has been created in the field of journalism, which will be difficult to fill…”
Khattar tweeted, “…Your life as an able politician and a successful journalist will continue to guide us all.”
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