- Actor-politician Sonali Phogat will contest from Adampur in Haryana
- She has been tasked with unseating Congress leader Kuldeep Bishnoi
- She said she started using TikTok last year while shooting for a movie
Sonali Phogat, an actor-politician who commands a following of four lakh on TikTok and has been declared the BJP candidate for the Adampur Assembly seat in Haryana's Hisar district, spoke to NDTV today while campaigning ahead of state elections this month. Ms Phogat, who has been given the task of unseating Congress leader Kuldeep Bishnoi, compared the constituency and the contest to the Amethi Lok Sabha seat in Uttar Pradesh, which was a Gandhi family stronghold till BJP leader and Union Minister Smriti Irani beat Rahul Gandhi in April-May national polls.
"This (Adampur, which has voted for Kuldeep Bishnoi and his family for 50 years) is like Amethi was the bastion of the Gandhi family. But there is no development here," she said, adding that Mr Bishnoi, the son of former Chief Minister Bhajan Lal Bishnoi, had only "inherited" the seat.
The BJP, which won 47 seats in the 90-member house in 2014, has set itself a target of 75 this time and will likely rely on star candidates like Ms Phogat to nearly double its haul from the last election.
The opposition Congress, which has been battling defections and resignations in the state, has dismissed her candidature, pointing out she has no political experience and is unaware of local challenges, charges she refuted.
"He (Kuldeep Bishnoi) calls me an outsider but he doesn't know water scarcity issues. I raised the issue and met Union Water Resources Minister Nitin Gadkari. I am from these villages. I am a farmer's daughter," she told NDTV.
She also hit back at the Congress' suggestion that she had been fielded simply because of her popularity on Tiktok.
"I've been with the BJP for 12 years... met Sumitra Mahajan and Sushma Swaraj. I have worked for the organisation. I only started using TikTok last year while shooting for a movie," Ms Phogat explained.
"I've always worked for the people and will continue doing that," she said, criticising the Congress for trying to make her use of social media a political issue.
"I will use TikTok for raising awareness among youth about issues. Social media apps can be used for that and people have appreciated me a lot for it," she claimed.
State elections in Haryana (and Maharashtra) are scheduled for October 21, with results due on October 24. The polls are the first since PM Modi returned to power for a second term.
In addition to unemployment and the condition of the economy, factors like Article 370, the 'Triple Talaq' bill and the NRC are also expected to be played up by both parties.
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