Ace boxer Vijender Singh, 33, was the toast of India at the 2008 Olympic Games, winning the first boxing medal for the country, a ‘golden’ bronze in middleweight. Having won the middleweight gold at the 2010 Asian Games, the six-footer turned pro in 2015 and has so far won all 10 professional bouts, before an injury stopped him. Originally from Kaluwas village in Haryana, the Padma Shri and Rajiv Khel Ratna winner has settled down in Vasant Kunj in south Delhi, the constituency from where he is up against sitting BJP MP Ramesh Bidhuri in the Lok Sabha elections.
Excerpts from an interview:
Have you contested any election, be it in at the college or at the local level, before this one?
I’ve never ever fought any election. I come from a very poor family in a village. At one point I didn’t have the shoes and clothes to wear, nor did we have a cycle at home, leave alone having a TV. I worked hard and reached here, gradually. As they say, your dreams should be high and when people love you and the Almighty is with you it’s a very big thing.
Till 11 pm before you filed your nomination you were undecided. Why was this indecision?
As you know I was employed with Haryana Police, and resigning from the job is a tedious and a long procedure. And there was a lot of ‘to and fro’ happening in my case. Sometimes there was ‘yes’, sometimes it was ‘no’ and sometimes ‘maybe’. There were some officers with clean hearts helped me a lot.
That means you were picked to contest for the south Delhi seat? But how long ago were you told that?
For a very long time…I can tell you this much.
Say…one month, two months, three months…?
May be more than that. I was very busy in training in the USA. And when I got injured during sparring in the USA, I thought maybe that is God’s indication to me [to enter politics], probably telling me that ‘why don’t you go [and work] for the people?’ Everything happens for a cause.
Some people thought it was the Congress’s sudden decision to field you.
It is up to a person whether to accept the offer or not. I decided to contest, saying ‘why not’. If I am getting an opportunity to work and get the love of the people, let’s do that, because the standard of politics is falling rapidly. People are not happy with things that are happening in our country. But I don’t want to criticise anyone; I want to say my own thing before the people: I am like this and I would do this and this if I get the opportunity.
Was there any kind of undue pressure on you to contest?
Not at all. I am contesting willingly and you can see that in my body language. My thinking is quite similar to that of the Congress party and so are the issues. The simplicity of Rahul ji and Priyanka ji impresses me a lot, and that was a reason why I’m with them. Basically, when you read about the life of great leaders like Indira ji, Nehru ji, Vallabh bhai Patel ji, you come to know the decisions those leaders had taken. Like I worked hard inside the ring to become successful, I’ll do the same in politics too.
How many leaders’ life stories have you read?
I read more religious books, like Buddha’s. But I have also read about political leaders, like Mahatma Gandhi etc.
Did you meet Rahul or Priyanka at the time of joining the party?
I knew them already, before I joined.
Knowing you, you can't be diplomatic. But in politics you can’t always be straight speaking?
Yes, I can’t be diplomatic; it’s in the blood. Wife keeps telling me not to be so straightforward. But I am what I am. Although the standard of politics is falling, people need to have a ray of hope, and those who will help them meet their desired goals will come up trumps. One doesn’t have to change, especially sportspersons don’t change; they remain the same, always.
How will you survive in the big, bad world of politics?
If you are good and honest, no one can stop you. When I was coming out of the village, some people would taunt me: ‘He thinks he’ll win an Olympic medal.’ But I did win an Olympic medal [bronze in 2008], isn’t it? So, if your resolve is tough, nothing is impossible, I feel. And, sometimes I think why politics is called ‘raj-niti’; why can’t be called ‘lok-seva’ or something like that? I feel the word ‘raj-niti’ should be changed.
You are contesting against a sitting MP [Ramesh Bidhuri of BJP]. How do you plan to tackle him?
If I start counting his shortcomings, there are many. People, too, are fed-up with him. Even his party men are annoyed with him. Someone told me that he has said that people from north Uttar Pradesh and Bihar living in Delhi should go back. How long will you do politics of dividing the society? Unless the youth of the country comes forward I don’t think India would benefit.
Bidhuri has alleged that you are living in south Delhi only for some time.
Our PM contested from Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh but he’s from Gujarat. I am living in Delhi since 2011. My father still drives a roadways bus. I’ve come from such a family. So, the journey from a village to Delhi takes time; one has to earn money to buy a property in a city like Delhi. This is my reply to him.
Suppose you win the contest, how do you plan to strike a balance between politics and pro-boxing?
Boxing is in my blood; you can never take it out. I want to box till my last breath. It’s my desire. But I am seriously into politics. Some people are saying that I have jumped into politics just for fun. But my aim is only one: to make Delhi a better place.