On Tuesday evening former discus thrower Krishna Poonia, a Commonwealth and Asian Games medallist, was on the way to Jaipur to meet Congress leaders and workers to brainstorm about taking on an Olympic medallist in his own bastion.
Sports and I&B minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, the 2004 Athens Games silver medallist in the double trap, is the sitting Member of Parliament from Jaipur Rural, a seat he won by a margin of 3.3 lakh votes in 2014.
By fielding Poonia, a first time MLA from Sadulpur in Churu parliamentary constituency, the Congress party has paved the way for a unique contest — between two sportstars who have won multiple medals for the country. Rathore and Poonia were part of the Indian contingent at the 2008 Beijing Olympics but the former discus thrower recalls interactions between them to be few and far between.
“I don’t remember talking to him when we were both active sportspersons. I think we have had a couple of brief conversations. We have both have won medals for the country but now we represent two political parties with different ideologies. This is a different battle and my vichaardhara is very different from what his party represents,” says Poonia, who will shift base to Jaipur, nearly 260 kilometers from Sadulpur.
She talks about the nature of their respective sport disciplines to try and drive home a point of being a politician who knows the pulse of the people.
“I have sweated it out in the playing fields under the hot sun during hours of training to win medals for the country. I have given it my all in training in tough conditions. Unlike shooters who train in relative comfort or in air-conditioned halls. I know what it takes to fight the odds and win,” Poonia said.
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When asked if she believed she could pip Rathore who had a vote share of 62.44 percentage, Poonia said that unlike five years ago there was no Modi wave this time.
“I hail from a family of farmers and I have seen first-hand how they have suffered since the BJP came to power. There is a world of difference between what the BJP promised and what they delivered. Nowadays, the government is talking about Mandir, Masjid, religion and caste because they have failed to deliver on their promise of development. Where are the jobs? Why is there rural distress? Why are the farmers struggling to make ends meet? Jumle se kisaano ka pet nahi bharta, jumle se berozgaari khatam nahi hoti (slogans can’t solve problems of farmers and of unemployment)” she said.
During her campaign trial for the assembly elections in December, the Commonwealth Games gold medallist raised issues of lack of water supply, which forced women in Sadulpur to trek long distances, absence of a government girls school and safety of women. Poonia had won by a margin of nearly 19,000 votes.
Poonia has projected herself as an international medalist with the promise to serve the people with the same dedication with which she trained to win medals.
During a speech in the run-up to the assembly elections, she is heard saying in a video: “I have won medals and earned name and fame by representing the tri-colour. Today I am happy to see people supporting me when I am standing in front of the Congress tri-colour.”