Poonia, the only Indian woman track and field athlete to have won an individual gold medal in the Commonwealth Games in 2010, on Tuesday resigned from the Indian Railways so as to join the Congress Party and prepare for the polls.
Poonia is expected to join the Congress Party on Wednesday at a rally in Raj
"Poonia has submitted his resignation from the Railways. She has been associated with us for many years and we are proud to have her as our employee. She is a great sportsperson as well as a youth icon of the country, especially among the women. We wish her all the success in life," a top Railway source said.
The rally in Churu will be addressed by Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi.
Poonia has been with the Railways for 11 years as a Gazetted-ranked officer and she is required to resign as under election laws, any person who wants to contest polls cannot be employed in a public sector undertaking.
She has already reached Churu for the rally. "It's going to be a big rally and Poonia's joining the party is expected to be announced there," a source in the know of the development said.
Sources close to Poonia said she will not end her track and field career even if she is elected in the polls as she has firmly set her eyes on winning a gold medal in the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games next year.
It is learnt that Poonia is likely to fight the Assembly elections in one of the six constituencies in Churu district as she has a following among the people there. She has been working for social causes in the state for some time.
After she won a gold medal in discus throw at the 2010 Commonwealth Games, Poonia was roped in as the brand ambassador by Rajasthan state Health Ministry though she quit from that position a few days back in view of her joining politics.
Poonia has been involved in a couple of campaigns in Rajasthan -- the first one aimed at spreading awareness against female foeticide called 'Save the Girls from Kanya Bhuran Hatya' at Hanumangarh, Sikar, Jhunjhunu and other districts.
The second campaign, called 'Khushi', at some villages in Udaipur district, aims at spreading awareness among people on the importance of care for the underprivileged and deprived children -- their health, education and nutrition.
Poonia will be the second high-profile sportsperson to join a political party in view of the upcoming state assembly election in Rajasthan. Recently, 2004 Olympics silver medallist shooter Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore joined Bharatya Janata Party and he is also expected to contest the Assembly elections in Rajasthan.