Sonali Phogat, who died following a heart attack in Goa on Tuesday, was no stranger to being in the public eye. She thrived on social media and hours before she breathed her last at the age of 42, she posted pictures and updates about herself on Instagram.
Phogat was a TikTok star and ‘Bigg Boss 14’ contestant in 2020; she played the wife of a don modelled after the infamous Haji Mastan in the Zee TV serial ‘Amma’ opposite Nawab Shah; she appeared in a Bhojpuri film with Ravi Kishan, now the BJP MP from Gorakhpur; and she lost to Kuldeep Bishnoi, who was then in the Congress, in his family pocket borough of Adampur in the 2019 Haryana Assembly elections.
Ironically, Phogat had contested from the BJP, the party Bishnoi recently joined. And a little before he made the switch, Bishnoi, who has resigned as MLA, was reported to have met Phogat to offer the seat to her — a seat that his father, the late former Haryana Chief Minister Bhajan Lal, then he and his wife Renuka have held since 1968.
A BJP activist who had been inducted into the party by former Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, Sonali Phogat, a farmer’s daughter from Bhuthan village in Haryana’s Faridabad district, was married off to a local politician, Sanjay Phogat, after she cleared her Class X exams from a local government school.
It was Sanjay Phogat, who, coincidentally, also died at the age of 42 in their farmhouse in 2016, who supported her education till Class XII and encouraged her to pursue modelling, along with her studies, in Noida.
From there, she went on to appear on Doordarshan Haryana, acted in the Zee TV serial ‘Amma’ and also appeared in Haryanvi films, and finally joined the BJP, wetting her feet in politics by campaigning for Vijender Gupta, the party’s candidate for the Chandni Chowk Lok Sabha seat in 2009. Throughout, her late husband was solidly behind her, which she tearfully told the singer Rahul Vaidya in a much-publicised episode of ‘Bigg Boss 14’.
Immediately after appearing on the reality show, Sonali Phogat was back in the news after a video showing her beating up a Haryana official named Sultan Singh in Hisar went viral.
Remembering their days together on ‘Bigg Boss 14’, reality TV celebrity Arshi Khan said: “I was in touch with her even after ‘Bigg Boss’. She used to treat me like family. She was a happy soul. I used to get so much positivity from her.”
Arshi added: “She always treated me like her daughter, pampered me during ‘Bigg Boss’. She used to make me understand how the game worked and guided me. The time she was moving out from the ‘Bigg Boss’ house, I was all broken and today, she has left us all behind.”
She concluded by saying: “I seriously cannot even think she is no more. I have cancelled my work today and am trying to say a final goodbye.”
In her short life, Sonali Phogat managed to leave behind a trail of memories — and a legion of fans and followers.