Krishna Poonia, who is in a direct contest with fellow Olympian Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore in this Lok Sabha seat, says politics is different from sports and results are always in people’s hands. For the 2010 Commonwealth Games discus throw gold medallist, who is the Congress nominee from Jaipur Rural segment, it has been a gruelling transition – from fixed hours of training in the sports field to a 24×7 job of politics.
For her, this transformation is nothing but stark, from basking in the glory of winning medals for the country to shouldering the responsibility of being a people’s representative.
Poonia is the sitting MLA from Sardulpur, having won the seat in the 2018 assembly polls. She is now trying her luck against sitting BJP MP and Union minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore. Voting in this seat will be held on May 6.
“Politics is a different battlefield than sports. In sports, the result is in your own hands. You can train yourself and assess your strengths. In politics, that is not the case because the results are in people’s hands and everything is about emotions,” she tells PTI in an interview.
“In sports, I got a high whenever I won a medal and laurels for the country. Now, it is a different feeling. One of shouldering onerous responsibility of being a politician and of caring about people’s emotions and aspirations,” said 42-year-old Poonia.
She has an uphill task ahead of her as Jaipur Rural segment abounds in army recruits, making the BJP’s nationalism narrative dominant here. The ace discus thrower is, however, determined to pull the narrative back to development issues as she accuses the BJP of politicising the army to “hide its failures”.
Asked how she is countering the nationalism debate post-Pulwama terror attack, Poonia says, “I am going to the people with Congress ideology and Nyay scheme. We all respect our army. There were also surgical strikes during Congress rule. But the BJP is raising the bogey of nationalism to deflect attention from its failures. No one is telling us how so much RDX reached Pulwama. Why is the BJP not holding a probe into this?”
In her campaign rallies, Poonia is heard telling women voters to turn out in large numbers.
“I won the 2018 assembly poll from Sardulpur. The highlight of that election was nine per cent higher voting by women than male voters. Not to forget that I am the first woman candidate from this constituency,” says Poonia, whose women-centric campaign slogan is “Le ghoonghat ki oanth… de Krishna ko vote” (Vote for Krishna from behind the veil).
She says key issues of the segment are of development.
“The BJP is trying to divert attention of people away from job losses, inability of government to retrieve black money, pay Rs 15 lakh in each bank account. We are trying to bring the focus back on fundamental issues. People here are very angry with sitting MP Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore. He had promised a sports stadium, schools and other basic facilities, but he did not deliver anything. Nearly 42 per cent of MPLADS funds meant for Jaipur Rural has elapsed. We want answers for this,” she says.
Poonia is engaged in hectic canvassing that sometimes requires her to visit more than 12 village panchayats a day. She says she is getting used to the political battlefield after giving her best to discus throwing.
“In politics, spur-of-the-moment decisions can have long term consequences. It is a 24-hour job. I have to campaign aggressively because my candidature was announced very late while my opponent has been campaigning for three months, she says.
Poonia, a Jat, originally from Haryana and married in Rajasthan, says she believes in taking everyone along.
“When I bagged the CWG medal, people from all castes came to welcome me on my return to Jaipur. I want everyone’s blessings for Lok Sabha elections too,” she says.
Jaipur Rural segment was earlier part of Dausa, where late Congress leader Rajesh Pilot held sway. It has seen two Lok Sabha polls, the Congress and the BJP winning one each.