Boxer Vijender Singh Switches From Congress To BJP

The Olympian said joining the BJP was like a homecoming for him.

The move is expected to help the BJP consolidate votes from the Jat community.

New Delhi:

In another jolt to the Congress weeks before the Lok Sabha elections, boxer Vijender Singh has joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The Olympian had joined the Congress in 2019 and unsuccessfully contested the general elections from the South Delhi constituency, losing to the BJP's Ramesh Bidhuri.

Sources said the Congress had planned to field the 38-year-old against BJP MP Hema Malini, who has been named as a candidate from the Mathura seat once again. His switch to the BJP is expected to help the party consolidate votes from the Jat community, which is especially important in Haryana and Western UP. The boxer is expected to campaign extensively for the BJP in these two areas.

Mr Singh was the first Indian boxer to win an Olympic medal - a bronze - at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He also won silver medals at the 2006 and 2014 Commonwealth Games and bronze medals at the 2010 edition of the Games as well as the 2009 World Championships.

Joining the BJP in the presence of party General Secretary Vinod Tawde on Wednesday, the boxer said in Hindi, "This is like a ghar wapsi (homecoming) for me. I had contested the elections in 2019. It is good to be back. The way sportspersons are getting respect in the country and abroad now is commendable. When we used to go abroad to fight earlier, to the UK and Dubai, for instance, certain things would happen at the airports sometimes. But since the BJP and the (Narendra) Modi government came to power, we can go anywhere easily."

"I would like to thank PM Modi and the BJP for the respect that sportspersons get under this government. I would like to be a part of this government, help people and show them the right path. I am the same Vijender that I was and will call a spade a spade," he added.

Vijender Singh had backed wrestlers Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik and Bajrang Punia in their protest against BJP MP and then Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh over sexual harassment allegations last year. When Sakshi Malik had announced her retirement from wrestling after a close aide of the BJP MP had won the subsequent WFI elections, the boxer had called it a black day in the history of sports.

He had also questioned the silence of Indian cricketers on the issue.

Speaking to news agency PTI after making the switch, Mr Singh said he had made a "well thought out decision" after connecting with the BJP through a common friend.

"I got in touch with the BJP through a common friend and they were welcoming. I was impressed with all the work that the central government has done for sportspersons over the last 10 years. And I thought why not? I feel I can contribute to the cause, especially for sportspersons who hail from Haryana. It is my home, after all, and I want to help make things better," he said.

Asked if the move was triggered by any dissatisfaction with the Congress, the boxer said, "That is a discussion for some other day. Yes, I will talk about those things too, but not today. It's a fresh start I am making and I would want it to be on a positive note."