The ruling Aam Aadmi Party’s pick for one of the two Rajya Sabha seats from Punjab is Vikramjit Singh Sahney, a 59-year-old businessman and a philanthropist — and a known, vocal supporter of the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
In the Sikh community in Punjab, Delhi and the diaspora, Sahney, is known for his social works, including helping in evacuation of 500 Afghan Hindus and Sikhs by sending three chartered flights at his own expense to Kabul. The founder and owner of the Sun Group, a trading and consultancy organization, he also dons the hat of a sufi singer — having over 50 sufi and devotional songs sung to his credit.
Sahney has his roots in Kotkapura of Faridkot district in Punjab but mostly lives in Delhi and Dubai. His company is among the leading traders of fertilisers, fertiliser raw materials and other agri commodities with linkages in several countries, including South Africa, and Middle East.
For the past few years, Sahney has remained in news for supporting Afghan Sikhs and Hindu refugees. His NGO Sun Foundation supports Afghan refugee families financially under the program ‘My Family, My Responsibility’ and also runs a skill development center to train them. “We pay for their household expenses and health insurance too,” says Sahney.
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Though a vocal BJP supporter since the Modi government came to power in 2014, he never joined any political party formally.
Speaking to The Indian Express after AAP annnounced his nomination, Sahney said: “I am not a political person… I will be doing sewa of Punjab to bring it back to its glory.”
Due to his philanthropist activities and business linkages across the world, he has remained close to politicians cutting across party lines and Bollywood personalities. He was awarded the Padma Shri in 2008 during the Congress-led UPA government for “invaluable contribution to the society”, and most recently the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), a body controlled by Badals-led Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), honored him with Anmol Sikh Rattan Award “for his services for supply of oxygen concentrators and cylinders to Punjab during Covid, and rehabilitating Afghan refugees, skilling and providing jobs to Sikh youth”.
He has also been a part of several business delegations that were sent abroad by the BJP-led central government to represent India in past years.
He has been a member of Prime Minister’s Indo-Africa Business Council, Board of Trade (Govt of India) and India-UAE Joint Task Force.
From the former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to his successor Narendra Modi, Arun Jaitley to Sushma Swaraj, Akshay Kumar to Priyanka Chopra, and Sheikhs of UAE to King of Jordan, and even Queen Elizabeth II — Sahney flaunts his meetings with one and all on his Instagram page.
Sahney’s NGO has been promoting and supporting central government schemes by running its namesake programmes. For instance, its ‘Save Girl Child’ program runs in association with ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ and claims to have supported over 15,000 women in rural north India. Under its ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’, Sahney claimed to have adopted a slum in Mumbai for cleaning jointly with Priyanka Chopra.
Other programs of his NGO include ‘Surya Kiran’ for skill development of underprivileged women, ‘Taare Zameen Par’ for skill development of disabled youth, ‘Angels of Sun’ for providing scholarship to underprivileged students, ‘Jai Jawan..’ for helping families of farmers who committed suicide among others.
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AAP nominating Sahney for Rajya Sabha has come as a surprise for many in the Sikh community who always knew him as a BJP supporter in the past few years.
Around two weeks back, he had tweeted his appreciation for Punjab Chief Minister Bahgawnt mann announcing the MSP on moong. “Punjab will produce 4 lakh quintals of the pulses,” he had said in a tweet appreciating the fact that it will help save ground water. In the same tweet, he thanked PM Modi “for accepting procurement of shriveled (wheat) grains from Punjab”.
Founder and international president of World Punjabi Organization (WPO), set up in 1998 with former IK Gujral as its patron to “unite vast Punjabi NRI community with India”, Sahney also claims to be a person who is very close to Sikh heritage and culture with his projects such as Baba Baghel Singh Sikh Heritage Multimedia Museum at Gurdwara Bangla Sahib in Delhi, Guru Tegh Bahadur Multimedia Auditorium and a holographic show of the life story of the Guru Tegh Bahadur at Rakabganj Gurdwara in national capital.
During the second Covid wave in the country, Sahney says his foundation donated oxygen plants, ECMO machine, 1000 oxygen concentrators, and 2000 oxygen cylinders to various districts and rural areas of Punjab.
“We had also set up a 400- bed Covid Care Center at Gurdwara Rakab Ganj by providing 400 oxygen concentrators. An additional 500 oxygen concentrators were donated to several districts of Punjab and various Covid care camps. Oxygen Concentrator banks were set up all over Punjab in collaboration with local gurdwaras, Golden Temple and district administration,” he says.
“We also run two state-of-art skill centers at Delhi and Amritsar providing training to over 2000 students each year, free of charge to support needs of the industry,” he adds.
His organization is also running a drug de-addiction and rehabilitation center in Amritsar.
Sahney says he has represented India in various international conferences and bodies like BRICS, IBSA ie India-Brazil-South Africa, SAARC, BIMSTEC, International Chamber of Commerce (ICC-Paris-India) etc.
He completed his studies from Government Brijindra College, Faridkot and Punjabi University, Patiala.
He is also the patron of ‘Roko Cancer’, an organization that holds free cancer screening camps in rural Punjab, Haryana and Delhi.
Sahney was also instrumental in getting the equestrian statue of Maharaja Ranjit Singh installed at Parliament House, Delhi in 2003 when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the PM.