Moga (Punjab): Months after he came to the rescue of labourers walking back home in the days of Covid-19 lockdown, actor and philanthropist Sonu Sood is himself hitting the streets.
With folded hands and smile on his lips, he’s going from house to house event in scores of villages drumming up support for his sister Malvika Sood Sachar contesting the Punjab Assembly polls less than a fortnight away.
With villagers complaining of lack of basic infrastructure facilities like public toilets, sanitation, drainage, disposal of sewage and large potholes as several people have met with accidents, Sood, accompanying his younger sister who is born and brought up in this town in the Malwa region, is assuring improvement, if the Congress party retains the helm in the state.
Malvika joined the Congress just a week ahead of the pronouncement of the February 20 polls for 117 Assembly seats.
She has replaced sitting Congress legislator Harjot Kamal, who joined the BJP and is again in the fray to retain the seat that has been the Congress stronghold since 2007.
Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)leader and former minister Tota Singh, who was convicted in 2012 in a case of corruption and sentenced to a year of imprisonment, represented this seat for two successive terms — 1997 and 2002.
Malvika, 39, married and running her parental family business in Moga, told IANS that she has taken the political plunge to dedicate herself to serve the society like her brother.
Sonu Sood’s childhood friends in his hometown, some 175 km from the state capital Chandigarh, described him as the messiah of tens of thousands of desperate migrants amidst pandemic and supporting school educations of scores of underprivileged, while his family believes his philanthropy spirit comes from his ancestry.
Born to a business family, the siblings’ father was in the cloth business and mother was an English lecturer in town’s oldest D.M. College of Education.
Their eldest sister is settled in the US.
“Sonu is a household name in every village. We have seen him on news channels on several occasions when he himself was on the streets to help the migrants who were returning to their homes during the pandemic. If he has zeal for serving society, we expect his sister will also follow in his footsteps,” octogenarian Nachhatar Kaur of Rattian village told IANS.
She said the brother-sister duo came to the village last week and sought votes with promise to strengthen village streets and the sewage treatment system.
Sharing similar sentiments, another village elder Ajaib Kaur added, “Ahead of the elections, Sonu’s sister came to our village and sponsored the school fees of several poor students when she came to know that their parents have lost wages due to the pandemic. She has provided money to poor villagers for rebuilding their ‘kutcha’ houses.”
However, Malvika’s rival and AAP candidate Amandeep Kaur Arora believes Malvika’s identity is only her brother.
“Malvika has no identity of her own. She is known only as Sonu Sood’s sister. My identity is that of a doctor and served ex-servicemen and their families,” Amandeep added.
SAD candidate Barjinder Makhan Brar, a lawyer by profession, believes in the dynasty’s advantage.
“My father (Tota Singh) remained an MLA of Moga twice and did a lot of development work. Sonu Sood has just surfaced. He’s just trying to woo the voters by using money. If he has philanthropic initiatives to his credit, what is the contribution of his sister to society? After all, the legislator is the local representative in the Assembly. The voters can’t be befooled for the sake of Sonu’s philanthropy,” he added.
In 2017, Harjot Kamal, then with the Congress, won the seat by securing 52,357 votes, while AAP’s Ramesh Grover finished second with 50,593 votes. Barjinder Brar polled 36,587 votes.
Incumbent Charanjit Singh Channi, the chief minister face of the Congress, while campaigning for Malvika, who did Master of Computer Application, on Wednesday announced if the party returns to power she would be a minister in his Council of Ministers.
In December 2020, a road in Sonu Sood’s hometown was named after his mother, Prof Saroj Sood. At this the actor said he cannot contain his happiness and this will always be the most important chapter in his life.
“Sonu is deeply attached to hometown, his family and friends. He prefers to travel to Moga whenever he spares time from his hectic schedule in Bollywood, Malvika, who runs cloth and education business, told IANS.
Sonu’s grandfather Vidya Rattan Sood was also a known philanthropist.
Malvika’s neighbour Rakesh Khanna said the people in the town are proud of Sonu for bringing this town into limelight through his philanthropic spirit.
He said his parents wanted him to become an engineer. He did his engineering from Nagpur.
“Besides having no godfather in the film industry, he established himself,” Khanna said, adding even his sister has no ego with the fame of her brother.
“Whenever Sonu is in his hometown, you can see him riding on his scooter from his college days. He also prefers to spend time in his father’s shop located in the main market,” Khanna added.