Chandigarh, Jan 18 (IANS) From a leg spinner to a media baron, to a socialite and a BJP MP — Ashwini Kumar Chopra, or Ashwini Minna as he was popularly known, tried his innings in many fields.
But his innings was cut short at the age of 64 years after he breathed his last in a private hospital in Gurugram on Saturday after prolonged illness. He was suffering from cancer.
He was BJP MP from Haryana’s Karnal constituency from 2014-19.
In a condolence message, Congress President Sonia Gandhi said the Ashwini Chopra’s long and distinguished innings as an editor as also as a social worker and an MP will be long remembered.
His friendship cut across political boundaries and he was known for his forthright views on most issues undeterred by the opposition he faced, Gandhi said.
Belonging to the family of victims of Punjab terrorism, Ashwini’s family ran the Hind Samachar group of newspapers that published the widely circulated Hindi daily ‘Punjab Kesari’.
Ashwini, who was heading the newspaper that published from the national capital, was the third generation in this profession.
His grandfather father, Lala Jagat Narain, 83, ex-minister of Punjab, Member of Parliament and owner of Jalandhar’s Hind Samachar group of papers, was assassinated by extremists in 1981.
Three years later, Ashwini’s father Ramesh Chandra Chopra, editor of the Hindi Samachar group and a strong critic of terrorism, was gunned down in Jalandhar. At that time, militancy in Punjab was at its peak.
Both Lala Jagat Narain and his son Ramesh Chandra were Congress MPs from Punjab, but left the party during the Emergency.
Ashwini was born in Jalandhar on June 11, 1956 and is survived by three children and wife.
Born in Jalandhar, Ashwini Kumar Chopra got elected from Karnal Parliamentary constituency in 2014.
He was not re-nominated by the party in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections owing to his poor health and “above party line’ approach. In 2014 elections, he registered a victory by over 3.6 lakh votes.
As a BJP MP, he compared Priyanka Gandhi Vadra with her grandmother, former Prime Minister late Indira Gandhi, at the time of the former’s entry into politics.
His admirers say he left the BJP red-faced with his page one editorial in which he not only praised Priyanka but also praised the Congress for always practising “inclusive politics”.
A rift between the BJP leadership and its sitting MP Ashwini surfaced in the 2014, when he was not consulted for allocation of tickets in the state assembly elections from his constituency.
When then greenhorn Manohar Lal Khattar won from the Karnal assembly segment and sought chief ministership, he protested, saying Khattar had no business doing so.
Time and again Khattar faced frequent criticism and outbursts from Ashwini over his style of working as the Chief Minister. Many a time, he criticised Khattar for lack of development in his constituency.
In August 2017, Ashwini created a flutter within the BJP on meeting with Priyanka in Delhi.
Born and brought up in Jalandhar, Ashwini was a leg spinner and captained the Punjab Ranji team in 1975-76 and 1979-80.
He played with Bishan Singh Bedi, Sunil Gavaskar and Vivian Richards in first-class matches. “I wanted to pursue cricket but the imposition of Emergency changed my life and I joined the newspaper business,” he was quoted as saying.
After Emergency, Ashwini flew to the US to study journalism and started working for the San Francisco Chronicle.
Later, at the insistence of his grandfather, who loved him a lot, Ashwini returned to his family newspaper business.
A common complaint against Ashwini as an MP was that he was largely missing from his constituency and keeping his party leaders waiting outside his Model Town house in Karnal for hours.
Sometimes, posters also surfaced in his constituency, terming him “a missing MP”.
(Vishal Gulati can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)