Switching from Congress to BJP came at an emotional price: Boxer Vijender Singh

As he opened up about his shocking political switch to the BJP, he conceded that the move has cost him a few close friendships.
Last Updated : 22 April 2024, 13:56 IST
Last Updated : 22 April 2024, 13:56 IST

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New Delhi: Boxer-cum-politician Vijender Singh has said he has no qualms about admitting that he has paid an emotional price for the decision to make a political switch from the Congress to the BJP, but insisted that he had his reasons to do so.

"I have just changed the platform, I haven't changed myself. I am the same guy," he said.

"Of course, there has been an emotional toll," Singh told PTI in an interview at his residence.

As he opened up about his shocking political switch to the BJP, he conceded that the move has cost him a few close friendships. But he hopes to regain them by staying true to his "core character".

The 38-year-old, who is India's first and only male boxer to have an Olympic medal (bronze in 2008) to his credit, drew a boxing analogy to explain his decision which left many stunned. But he exuded confidence that those who are feeling offended now will eventually come around when they see that he "remains the same guy".

"It's like when you move up a weight category in boxing. You do that when your body finds it difficult to adjust in your existing category. So, in politics when I found it difficult to adjust, I moved to a different platform", he said.

When one gets a good platform to present his or her views, that person should move on, he said.

"My core character remains the same. My sense of right and wrong is the same. I won't stop raising my voice against injustice", he said.

Singh said he joined the BJP for the betterment of youth and the country. His decision has hurt a few of his friends but he is there for them whenever they need him and they will see his actions, he said.

"I have to prove myself to them and I believe those who are your own never leave you. Some people close to me in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh (are upset). But there were a lot of issues", he added, refusing to pinpoint any specific cause for his discontent with the Congress party.

"Yes, of course the Congress people reached out but I shall talk about that later", he responded when probed further on the reasons for his exit and whether the Congress party tried to reason it out with him.

He said he was drawn to the BJP due to the vision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

"Our PM's vision is very good for India. He is the first to apologise when he feels he has gone wrong. He is not someone who only believes in one thing", said Singh, an Arjuna and Khel Ratna awardee who also happens to be India's first male boxer to claim a world championship medal (bronze in 2009).

Prime Minister Modi has said by 2047, India will be a developed country which is a huge thing, he said, and added that to give a vision like that to a young person in India is huge.

"I hope all of it comes true and especially the youth benefits from his plans," he added.

On whether he has been given any specific role by the BJP in the ongoing Lok Sabha polls, Singh said, "Not yet."

"(But) I will campaign in Haryana, western Uttar Pradesh and Delhi," he added, hoping that his presence would help the party consolidate its Jat base in these states.

Asked whether he has seen any visible change in the Indian sporting landscape ever since BJP came to power, Singh said the alacrity in response to any athlete's grievance is what he finds most impressive.

"The sports budget has gone up. You (as a sportsperson) are heard. Just posting your problem on social media gets you results. Whether it is the sports ministry, the Sports Authority of India or the minister Mr Anurag Thakur himself, they all respond.

"All requirements of sportspersons are heard, which wasn't the case earlier. A sportsperson has more reach when it comes to getting his voice heard in this government", he stressed.

He might have changed the party but Singh said he would never stop raising his voice for issues he believes in.

"I have already declared that when I feel there is something wrong, I will talk to the party and raise my voice", he said.

Asked if this is why he chose to congratulate wrestler Vinesh Phogat for Olympic qualification recently despite the fact that she has been openly critical of the government for its handling of the sexual harassment allegations against former national federation head Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, he said, "I congratulated Vinesh Phogat because she is my sister. Aage bhi karunga (I will keep doing it). I am an athlete first and that kinship will always be there", he asserted.

On his sporting career, Singh said he trains almost everyday. Boxing is his first love and it always will be.

"If I get the chance to represent India, I will do it," said the boxer, who plies his trade in the professional circuit but has not been seen in action since 2022.

Singh quit amateur boxing in 2015 but likes to keep tab on how the Indians are doing. He is worried about the current state of affairs given that none of the male boxers have yet made the Olympic cut with just one qualifying tournament left on the calendar.

"No man has qualified for the Olympics and hopefully it would change soon. I want to take boxing to new heights. I want the top leadership of the BJP to be involved in this," he said.

On his relations with Union Sports Minister Anurag Thakur, Singh said, "Our friendship is more than a decade old. We have seen a lot of ups and downs together".

Published 22 April 2024, 13:56 IST

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