'When you meet Rahul Gandhi, you will know he is definitely the right guy to lead this country.'
Last month he was training in Hollywood to gear up for his pro boxing debut in the United States, till an injury put paid to his hopes.
In an unexpected move, Vijender Singh made a sudden shift to politics; he joined the Congress and was given a Lok Sabha ticket for the South Delhi seat.
Vijender knows he has his task cut out and is racing against time as he looks to topple sitting Bharatiya Janata Party MP Ramesh Bidhuri who won the Delhi South seat in 2014 by 107,000 votes.
India's first Olympic medallist in boxing, Vijender is already in campaign mode. After filing his nomination on Tuesday, April 23, he has started meeting local leaders and voters in his constituency to understand their problems.
As he set out for a fresh round of meetings on Wednesday, April 24, Rediff.com's Harish Kotian spoke to the boxing icon on what made him take the plunge in politics, why he believes Rahul Gandhi is the ideal candidate to be prime minister and how he plans to win the people's trust.
What made you take up politics?
I am from India, and despite being outside the country for my boxing commitments these last few years I was always in touch with what was happening here... Aakhir Dil Hai Hindustani.
I believe this is the right time for change. I feel that the youth should be given a chance to take this country forward.
Jhoot ka parda (the veil of lies) has to come off now. These people who lied so much to come to power and then failed to fulfil their promises, they need to go.
I also strongly feel that more sportspersons, who have achieved so much for the country, need to be given a chance in politics as they are very passionate about doing well for India.
That's why I decided to join politics. I want to work for the people of this country and try to improve their lives and make it better.
I filed my nomination yesterday. I met people and also spoke to the media. I only slept at around 1 am. This morning I woke up at 5 am and started to meet people in my constituency.
The response was huge on the first day. So many people came to wish me.
I am learning a lot every day. I want the people of South Delhi to talk to me. I am available for them anytime. I want them to highlight their problems so we can work towards making their lives better.
You mentioned 'change' and 'lies' with regard to the current government.
Lies -- there are too many to list.
Tell me, did anyone get Rs 15 lakh (which the BJP promised to deposit in every Indian's bank account when it got black money stashed in foreign banks) so far?
Has the Ganga river been cleaned?
Have you see any smart city being developed?
Have we found a solution for Pakistan? What about Article 370?
There are so many lies, I am struggling to list all of them.
Today, India has become a country where people are being killed in the name of gau raksha (protection of cows).
Suddenly during the election, they bring up the Ram Mandir issue, which they had completely forgotten in the last four years.
They want people to fight in the name of religion. They are not talking about the future or development anymore.
I think these things should stop and their mask of lies should be taken off.
What made you choose the Congress?
The Congress has a vision for the future, their thinking is quite clear.
If you see their manifesto, everything has been listed clearly about their vision for the country in the next five years. Their clear thinking and vision for the future made me choose the Congress.
Are you confident that the Congress can knock the BJP out this time?
With fighters like me joining, I am sure the Congress will definitely knock out the BJP.
You have been a sports icon and very popular among the youth of the country.
How will you connect to your fans and followers in politics and convince them to back you and the Congress?
I believe people like me because I am always the same, whether I am inside the ring or outside.
I don't wear any masks or lie to the people to build my image.
I have been in the limelight for the last 10, 12 years. People have seen that I am always honest and hardworking. I have never lied or faked myself.
People have acknowledged my success and given me so much love over the years.
The place from where I am contesting the election -- South Delhi -- there you also have farmers, you have workers and you have businessmen.
I have come from a small village in Haryana. I hail from a middle class family. I have worked in the railways, then I have worked for the Haryana police.
I moved to South Delhi after I took up boxing. Then I have also gone to the UK and Hollywood for boxing so I have experienced a lot of things and people.
I feel I can understand the people of South Delhi, what they need. I am sure I can work towards making their lives better.
How do you think the Congress can fight the Modi wave this time?
There is no Modi wave this time, it is over. This politics of hate doesn't last for long.
How long can you make people fight each other?
If you see Haryana, they have divided the Jat community from the other castes.
If you go to Gujarat, you will see the Patel community and other castes bickering. Similarly, in UP, the Thakurs and Dalits are fighting each other.
In Maharashtra also, the people are not happy either and there has been a lot of resentment.
So wherever they have gone, they simply target the people and make one community fight each other.
It is like going back to British rule where the goras also tried to make people fight each other using the 'divide and rule' policy.
Why would you say Rahul Gandhi is the ideal candidate to take the country forward?
I know him well, he is a genuine person.
When you meet Rahul Gandhi and talk to him about the country, about his vision for the future, you will know that he is definitely the right guy to lead this country.
I know a lot of things have been deliberately spread on social media against Rahul Gandhi and they are all fake.
I would say give Rahul Gandhi a chance and you will see that he will change things and take India forward.
What advice did Rahul give when you decide to join politics?
He told me that the most important thing is to connect with the people and work for their betterment. He told me that if I don't listen to the people's voice then I won't be successful.
This is democracy. Many rich and successful people have also failed to win the people's trust.
So you have to stay connected to the people, talk to them, find out their problems and work towards helping them.
All this stardom won't count in politics, your only aim should be to serve the people.
Can Rahul Gandhi deliver acche din for India?
The acche din promised five years ago have still not come, the people are still waiting to see what happened to it.
I am confident that the Congress will live up to the promises made in its manifesto and deliver NYAY (referring to the Congress campaign tagline 'Ab hoga Nyay') to everyone.
The people in this country -- including the farmers and the working class -- are struggling and the Congress will deliver Nyay to them.
The government is asking for votes on basis of nationalism and trying to divide the people.
You are pitted against a tough candidate in the BJP's Ramesh Bidhuri in South Delhi.
The BJP uses the politics of fear. Its thinking is to scare voters and influence them. All these things won't work this time around.
If they want to fight, I am ready for that, I won't take a step back.
In South Delhi, the major issues are illegal constructions; the safety of women is a big concern; unemployment is another big issue.
So many young people have come to me and told me 'We were promised 2 crore jobs every year, where is that? We are struggling to get jobs.'
I believe the people have found out that all these promises made by the BJP last time were fake and I am sure they will all vote for the Congress this time.
The BJP invited criticism after its leaders used the Pulwama terror attack and the surgical strikes in Pakistan thereafter to appeal for votes. What is your view on that?
Even the armed forces are tired of this government.
A former army man (a former Border Security Force jawan) Tej Bahadur Yadav is contesting against Modi from Varanasi.
Take his example. What did he do? He just complained about the quality of food served to the army and he was sacked.
He was troubled a lot after that and has now decided to contest from Varanasi against Modi. You don't need any bigger proof than this, especially for the army, now that a former army man himself is standing against Modi.
Is this the end of your boxing career?
No! Definitely not. Boxing is in my blood,
I will stay connected to boxing till my last breath.