Actor and philanthropist Sonu Sood has explained why he refused to take a plunge into politics despite getting offers from political parties. Sood said, “if you can listen to allegations you can survive. If you are filled with emotions, I don’t think, you can survive (in politics).”
Sonu Sood was replying to questions from Rajat Sharma in India TV’s show ‘Aap Ki Adalat’, slated to be telecast tonight at 10 pm on the channel.
When Rajat Sharma pointed out, “Even Amitabh Bachchan entered politics, but after a few years, he quit, saying politics is a ‘cesspool'”, Sonu Sood replied, “The little experience that I have gained till now, shows, people do raise fingers at you. If you enter politics, you must keep your back strong. People can pat your back, and can also stab you in the back. If you can listen to people’s allegations, you can survive, but I don’t think people with emotion can survive (in politics).”
Sonu Sood, who earned plaudits for helping common people during Covid pandemic, by providing buses, trains, flights, oxygen cylinders and medicines, said, “I got offers for big (political) posts, which normally takes years for a person to achieve. I even got offers for Rajya Sabha seat. But I think I am still not ready for this. I need time. Unless I get the ‘josh’ (zeal), I must not take the plunge (into politics). Some told me, there are people who spent their whole life for such posts, but I think, my life objectives are different. They still remain so.”
Rajat Sharma: You got calls from Priyanka Gandhi who praised your work?
Sonu Sood: Yes, in fact, Priyanka Ji was the first who told me the good work that I was doing. Smriti Irani Ji also called me to give me a boost and said, ‘just keep the good work going’. I think all these matter, and I feel I am on the right path.
RS: Even the then Punjab CM Capt. Amrinder Singh, the then Uttarakhand CM Rawat, and Odisha CM praised you in their tweets?
SS: Yes, in fact, I started buses and special flights (for migrants during lockdown). The first flight took off from Kochi for Bhubaneswar carrying 170 women who were working in a stitching factory in Ernakulam. I arranged their transport from Ernakulam to Kochi by 3.30 am. I got special permission to open up the airport at 1.30 am. (Naveen) Patnaik Sir, the Odisha CM, rang me up and told me “Thank you so much for serving 170 girls,” that kept me going.
RS: But politicians keep an eye on their advantage when then praise?
SS: That time, it was an exception. I think, it was their greatness that they acknowledged that I was doing the right thing. I only joined my hands and said, ‘thank you’.
When Rajat Sharma asked about the source of funds for providing buses, flights, trains for students, labourers and other migrants, Sonu Sood replied, “When I started this, I knew too much money was required, otherwise one can’t survive for even two days. I took the help of brand sponsors, took help from hospitals for doctors, from colleges for teachers, from pharma companies. I offered to appear free for their brands. Some said, you select either education, or medical, or jobs, you can’t do all at one time. Those from NGOs rang me up saying, India has a huge population of 130 crore, you may not survive. I told them, I can’t refuse the needy who line up outside my home. From Jammu to Kanyakumari, from the smallest districts to the smallest states, I can provide education, get patients treated, arrange jobs. You ring me up, I will do.”
RS: Arranging buses and trains for so many people.. you claimed on your website, you helped bring 4,000 students from Kurdistan and Kazakhstan by planes. This is not an easy task.
SS: Those who could afford, paid for their tickets. But we ensured that everybody was brought back. At that time, there were no flights from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Georgia, Palestine, Russia. I spoke to the offices and ambassadors of all these countries. I was doing this round-the-clock, arranging permissions for airlines and bringing people back.
RS: You say, everyday nearly 400-500 people stand in queues outside your home, how do you fulfill their demands?
SS: I was in Dubai recently. At the immigration counter, a person took selfie with me, said he was a hospital director. He told me you arranged a bone marrow transplant for a person in Bengaluru, and a liver transplant for somebody in Kerala. You paid for these. We want you as our brand ambassador. We met the next day and he asked for my fees for brand sponsorship. I told him, your hospital does the best surgeries and my fee will be zero. Let your hospital sponsor 50 liver transplants for me. One liver transplant costs Rs 28 lakhs. He sponsored 50 liver transplants, which amounted to Rs 12.5 crore. Till now, we have got 19 liver transplants done. Sitting here today (in Aap Ki Adalat), I am saying on national media. Call me, I will try to make it (transplant) happen. A labourer earning Rs 200 a day can’t afford a surgery that costs Rs 25-28 lakh. We are ready to do this for them.
RS: Somebody asked for a tractor, you gave him. Somebody wanted a roof on his head, you did it. Somebody wanted a transplant, you got it done in a week. Even God doesn’t do things so fast.
SS: It is God that gets all these things done. I am only a medium.
RS: I read about the number of transplants and heart surgeries that you got done for people. Are you a superman or a Robin Hood?
SS: Common Man hoon, Sir. During Covid pandemic, we got in touch with 7.5 lakh people, along with their Aadhar card details, lists and all. They were all poor people. When we got them transported, they had this zeal to work for me. They said, ‘Sonu Bhai, you helped us, we will work for you’. When we started providing medicines and injections for Covid patients, some people filed cases against me. These poor people rode their bicycles and provided medicines to the needy 50-60 km away. Some patients couldn’t even type on their phones, they just sent the photo of their finger on oxymeter showing 52. We provided them help.
When Rajat Sharma pointed out that his company got Rs 12.5 lakh donation in 2020-21, which jumped to Rs 20 crore during April-September in 2021, Sonu Sood replied: “Out of that, nearly 80 per cent donation is from myself. The big brands for which I worked, I told them, please donate. I have all the documents to prove these. All these direct donations were for hospitals, colleges, Foundation, it came to nearly 80 per cent. This happened because of the trust people had in me. They knew if they donated it will go to the right place. I had cheques from hospitals like Apollo and Max lying with me in advance. We sent patients to these hospitals and used these cheques for payment. We do not have “Kuber’s treasure (khazaana)” that will run for a lifetime. My effort is only to link maximum number of people. ..I can only say the money I earned from nearly 100 films in different languages in the last 20 years, amounts to hardly 1 per cent of all these donations. It’s an amazing world (Yeh kamaal ki duniya hai, Sir).”
About the Income Tax ‘surveys’ carried out in September, 2021 for four days at his properties in Mumbai, Lucknow, Kanpur, Jaipur, Delhi and Gurugram, Sonu Sood claimed that nothing incriminating document was found.
SS: They (Income Tax men) came at 5.30-6.00 am. I welcomed them and told them they would get the best experience from me. They were surprised to find that none of the cupboards or drawers in my home had locks. Even the doors had no locks. We open the doors of the house in the morning for people to walk in. That was something they found amazing.
RS: But the report from Department of Revenue of Central Board of Direct Taxes says, bogus entries of tax evasion have been found in Sonu Sood’s companies, and cheques were issued in lieu of cash?
SS: Even today, we are giving them each document. But like I said, with due respect to our very honourable persons, they have full right to check. We have submitted all the documents. Today I am sitting here in front of you. I think everything is in order. They did their work; I am doing my work.