For 52 years, the family of former state Congress chief minister Bhajan Lal has ruled the constituency of Adampur in Haryana’s Hisar district, not losing a single election. In the elections later this month too Bhajan Lal’s son, Kuldeep Bishnoi, is the Congress candidate.
But this time, the BJP has a plan. Enter 40-year-old Sonali Phogat, the party’s vice president of the state women’s wing and Hisar zonal director of Haryana Kala Parishad. And with nearly 1.4 lakh followers and 6.5 lakh ‘likes’ on the popular short-format video app, TikTok, Phogat is also an Internet sensation.
She is confident of pulling off an upset. Giving the example of the BJP, which unseated the Congress in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, she said: “The Congress ruled for years before BJP formed the government in the country. The same thing is going to happen in Adampur.”
Phogat lives in Hisar and has worked in a few TV serials in a 20-year acting career. But she admits it’s taken a back seat after she joined the BJP. “I had started working for the BJP 12 years ago but I did not lose
interest in acting. I get the opportunity of shooting for films and (TV) serials occasionally,” she said in Hisar after filing her nomination papers.
“I keep going to Mumbai. But I am full-time in politics and social service. This (TikTok) App impressed me a lot. My interest in songs and acting inspired me to be active on TikTok.”
Sources close to Sonali said that her followers on TikTok have only increased in the days since the BJP nominated her to the Adampur seat.
She said she joined politics after observing the success of BJP leader former Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan. “I met her (Sumitra Mahajan) when I was in acting. I took inspiration from her life to become an MP one day. I thought to work for the people of my constituency like her. I thought to earn a reputation like her in Indore. I found a good way in BJP and I joined it,” she said.
From a village in the neighbouring Fatehabad district, she was married to Sanjay Phogat, who died a few years ago. As per her election affidavit, she has declared cash of Rs 5.38 lakh as annual income in her Income Tax returns for 2018-19 and she has Rs 12.5 lakh “cash in hand”. She also declared a little over six acres of land, a flat in Noida and a plot in Gangwa village of Hisar district.
Her profession, she states, is “actress, agriculturist and others”. She has disclosed moveable and immovable property of Rs 2.73 crore.
Phogat claims Kuldeep Bishnoi “could not become a good politician or a politician of masses”. But she did appreciate the work of his father Bhajan Lal.
But Bishnoi claimed otherwise. “Had a political figure been fielded against me, it would have been an interesting poll battle. But she (Sonali) does not have knowledge of Adampur constituency. She doesn’t even know the names of villages. I will win comfortably from here,” he said.
In 2014, Bishnoi, then with the Haryana Janhit Congress, (HJC), had won the election. Two years later, he merged his party with the Congress.