In an atypical method of selecting chief ministerial candidate, Aam Aadmi Party declared Bhagwant Mann as its face based on votes cast via phone. Bhagwant Mann, the only two-time AAP MP from Sangrur, received more than 93 per cent of the votes cast through phone and WhatsApp, AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal announced today.
Baghwanth Mann in his ‘basanti turban’ ( turban identified with Bhagat Singh) couldn’t control his tears after his name was announced.
According to Delhi chief minister Kejriwal, more than 21 lakh people participated in the vote, AAP said. Explaining people choice based on the number of votes, he said around 3 per cent of votes were for Congress’ Navjot Singh Sidhu. While announcing Bhagwant Mann’s name he said that “It is clear that AAP will win the Punjab election. In a way, the person chosen as the Chief Ministerial candidate will be the next Chief Minister of Punjab,” Kejriwal said at an auditorium in Mohali.
Bhagwant Mann fits perfectly with the image of the leader of the people, the ‘aam Aadmi’ in Punjab. Mann is 48 years old and was already a household name for his comedy before he decided to enter politics.
He entered politics in 2011. He had joined Manpreet Singh Badal’s People Party of Punjab (PPP). But he left PPP in 2014 to join AAP. He joined AAP in 2014 where his witty and distinct oratory skills became a crowd puller.
In 2018, Mann had a tiff with the party when Kejriwal apologised to Bikram Singh Majithia for alleging that he was involved in the drug trade in Punjab. Kejriwal admitted that his allegations were “unfounded”. This created a stir amid the AAP members in Punjab. Bhagwant Mann expressed his disappointment by resigning from his position as the party’s Punjab head. He later joined the party again in 2019.
In the 2017 assembly polls, AAP pitted him against Akali president Sukhbir Badal from Jalalabad. He lost the seat by 18,500 votes
Punjab has always been an important state for AAP. In Delhi time and again AAP has accused the central government of not being able to function to its full capacity with some crucial departments under the central government. AAP is desperate to prove its mettle in Punjab. The 2014 Lok Sabha elections was a silver lining as it entered the house with 4 MPs from Punjab.
In 2019 its vote share declined but Bhagwant Mann retained his seat in Sangrur. He is the only sitting Lok Sabha member of AAP at present.
Bhagwant Mann has been a controversial figure. Most of them portrayed him as an alcoholic. There were reports of him attending the house after consuming alcohol. To kill the controversies, in 2019 on a stage in Barnala he pledged to quit alcohol. He did it with his mother, Harpal Kaur on his side. It was a rare occurrence for a politician to accept his mistake and pledge to change his behaviour in front of a large gathering. One can argue that such an approach has worked for forwarding his political career.
No one can deny that Mann has carved out a space for himself in Punjab politics. This is extremely visible in Sangrur, the Malwa region Mann was born in. The region which has a large population of farmers consider Mann as somebody approachable and a politician who made them aware.
However, with all the factions battling for a majority in Punjab, Bhagwant Mann was a tough road ahead.
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