Sonali Phogat left quite suddenly but her untimely death in Goa at the age of 42 has turned out to be a sensational murder case. TikTok star and Big Boss 14 contestant aside, the BJP leader’s career graph shows that she had humble beginnings but a thrust into prominence also meant that she courted numerous controversies.
Her death, earlier suspected to have been caused by a heart attack, has now been turned into a murder case with her personal assistant Sudhir Sangwan and his friend Sukhwinder behind bars. Phogat’s family has levelled allegations of rape against Sangwan and his aide.
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When her husband Sanjay Phogat died under mysterious circumstances in 2016, Phogat had said she would never have imagined that a man such as him would leave so suddenly. While his death remains a mystery to this day, it would not be unusual to say the circumstances under which the actor-turned-politician died on August 23 are getting murkier.
Phogat’s career is reflected in her urge to always be seen, whether on television or on the big screen. The BJP leader from Hisar began as an anchor on Doordarshan, later found fame on TikTok and as an actress as well as graduated onto being a contestant on Big Boss, a controversy favourite.
Born in the small village of Bhuthan Kalan on September 21, 1979, Phogat finished her schooling at Pioneer Convent School, Fatehabad, and completed her BA degree from Maharshi Dayanand University in Haryana. Her father is a farmer and she has three sisters and one brother.
Her professional career started in 2006 when she was an anchor on Hisar DD, following which she joined the BJP national working committee in 2008. She was appointed national vice-president of the Mahila Morcha. Like all aspiring actors, Phogat went to Mumbai in 2016. But, it was when she started taking on acting roles, her husband Sanjay was found dead at their farmhouse in Hisar. He, too, is said to have been active in local, social and political circles. Phogat has a teenage daughter, who also demanded justice for her mother saying she could not have died of a heart attack and had been “murdered".
While Phogat appeared in some Haryanvi movies with actors like Jimmy Shergill and Ravi Kishan and played roles in television and web series, she was truly a social media star in her own right.
As for her political career, Phogat first unsuccessfully contested from the Adampur assembly constituency in Hisar on a BJP ticket against Kuldeep Bishnoi in the 2019 assembly election. It was during this time she courted her first controversy for giving an alleged hate speech during her election campaign in Balasamand village of Adampur constituency. She asked people to chant ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ and said those who did not must be from Pakistan. She was criticised for the remarks and had to apologise later.
Bishnoi, who was then in the Congress, recently joined the BJP. Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar, deputy CM Dushyant Chautala, and BJP leaders OP Dhankar and Bishnoi took to Twitter to condole Phogat’s demise. Phogat even recently tweeted pictures of a meeting with Bishnoi a few days ago. Popular on social media, the leader’s Twitter is full of recent pictures from a tiranga rally to mark 75 years of India’s Independence. She’s decked in head-to-toe traditional Haryanvi attire, beaming and waving a flag from the sun roof of a car.
She was thrust into the limelight when two years ago in 2020, a video showing Phogat slapping a market committee official from Hisar and later beating him with a slipper for reportedly making derogatory remarks against her went viral on social media. She had a considerable following on TikTok and has 8,85,000 followers on Instagram. Her profile describes her as a mother, actor and content creator.
Phogat’s last posts on Instagram show her in a pink turban. Her Facebook profile, too, had similar pictures uploaded around the same time.
Education minister and BJP leader Kanwar Pal said her death is a setback for the party. “I spoke to her sister and two brothers and conveyed my condolences,” Pal said. Many politicians and influencers condoled her death on the internet, even those in opposition parties like the Congress and AAP.
“We cannot believe that she died of a heart attack… There should be a CBI probe into her death,” said Bhoop Singh, a villager who said he was also her senior in school.
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