Chandigarh: “Sahib, Rukiye! Aap Dhwajaarohan Nahi Kar Sakte. Aap Apavitra hain (Sir, stop! You can’t unfurl the flag. You are a tainted person).” A woman in her early thirties shouted as she rushed towards Haryana minister Sandeep Singh to stop him from unfurling the tricolour at Pehowa in Kurukshetra on Republic Day.
The police hurriedly bundled her into a vehicle to take her away from the venue even as she continued to raise slogans against the minister, who is facing the charge of sexual harassment.
The intruder, identified as Sonia Doohan of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), was unfazed about her action.
“I opposed Sandeep Singh unfurling the tricolour, because he is accused of sexually assaulting a Haryanvi woman. Khap Panchayats gave an ultimatum to the Khattar government asking him to not allow Sandeep Singh to unfurl the national flag. I also organised a rosh (protest) panchayat at Narnaund in Hisar on 8 January demanding his arrest. But rather than taking any action, the government is providing him all the protection,” Doohan told ThePrint.
“I was dragged by my scarf wrapped around my neck and taken to the police vehicle. They (the police) had the plan to book me under various sections, but warnings from leaders of Jind panchayats forced them to rethink and release me.”
Doohan had hit the headlines in 2019 when she “rescued” 4 NCP MLAs from a Gurugram hotel when Devendra Fadnavis of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) tried to form the government with a miffed NCP leader Ajit Pawar in Maharashtra.
The four rebel MLAs — Narhari Zirwal, Daulat Daroda, Anil Patil and Nitin Pawar — were missing since Pawar had taken oath as the Maharashtra deputy chief minister in November that year.
Doohan and NCP youth wing president Dheeraj Sharma led a mission that brought the missing MLAs back into the NCP fold in a dramatic ‘rescue mission’ from the hotel where they were allegedly held up by the BJP.
She had claimed that two teams of NCP workers kept a vigil on the hotel to find an opportune moment to bring out the holed MLAs, right from under the nose of the BJP workers.
Once a recee was done, they brought out the NCP legislators from the rear side of the hotel as it was not under closed-circuit television (CCTV) surveillance. From Gurugram, the group was taken to the safety of NCP president Sharad Pawar’s residence at 6 Janpath in New Delhi.
In July last year, Doohan had tried to carry out another such covert mission in Goa but arrested from the hotel where the rebel MLAs of the Shiv Sena were staying at the height of the tussle between Sena president Uddhav Thackeray and senior leader Eknath Shinde.
At that time, the NCP spokesperson used fake identity cards to book a room at the Goa hotel to get access to the heavily guarded hotel. Doohan was later granted bail by a court.
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Steady rise in party
It was during her college days in Haryana’s Kurukshetra University that Doohan stepped into the world of student politics. She has steadily grown through the ranks as she has held various posts including party’s state president and national president of the NCP’s students’ wing.
Given her growth in the party, Doohan has made her allegiance well-known as on 13 September last year, she posted pictures with NCP leader Sharad Pawar during the cake cutting ceremony on her birthday.
“Blessings from the most important person matter the most for me in my life. Today on the occasion of my birthday, my inspiration Hon. Sharad Pawar sahab blessed me by cutting a cake in his presence. For me, nothing is more than this. Pawar sahab gifted me a pen. This is not only a gift for me, but it is a responsibility to write a struggle for the sake of public welfare,” she posted on her Facebook page tagging the NCP supremo.
To a query why she chose the NCP for her political career though the party doesn’t have a mass following in Haryana, Doohan said because she found Pawar sahab a person who provides women the respect they deserve.
“As the defence minister of the country, Sharad Pawar provided reservation to women in the armed forces, and as the CM of Maharashtra, he gave them the property rights. That’s the reason I respect him a lot,” she told ThePrint.
(Edited by Tony Rai)
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