NEW DELHI: As the election trends poured in on Thursday morning, making it clear that a massive AAP wave had turned the tables on the traditional powerhouses, a yellow-turbaned Sardar bowed in front of the Guru Granth Sahib in the famous Mastuana Sahib Gurudwara in the Sangrur district of Punjab.
Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) chief ministerial face Bhagwant Mann, a man known for his antics, jokes or even his addiction to liquor at one time, knew that the future of the state now rested with him.
In a tweet soon afterwards, Mann said he prayed for the golden future of the state and welfare of all.
|ID 1501761887880450050Bhagwant man @ BhagwantMann ਗੁਰਦੁਆਰਾ ਸ਼੍ਰੀ ਮਸਤੂਆਣਾ ਸਾਹਿਬ ਵਿਖੇ ਨਤਮਸਤਕ ਹੋਏ … ਪੰਜਾਬ ਦੇ ਸੁਨਿਹਰੇ ਭਵਿੱਖ ਅਤੇ ਸਰਬੱਤ ਦੇ ਭਲੇ ਦੀ ਅਰਦਾਸ ਕੀਤੀ … https://t.co/0BXDaZV4w58:58 AM – Mar 10, 20223622104|
The 48-year-old is set to become Punjab chief minister after a poll that saw many mighty names — from former chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh to Akali Dal’s Parkash Singh Badal and Congress’s Navjot Sidhu — humbled.
Unusual journey towards politics
In one way, Mann’s political journey is similar to Arvind Kejriwal’s. When Kejriwal first emerged on the national scene as an activist bitter with the functioning of the existing political system, Mann was known as a comic artist who would make politicians the butt of his jokes. His jokes and songs would sell in albums with unique names like ‘Kulfi Garma Garam’ (Hot Ice Candy) or ‘Gustakhi Maaf’ (Beg Your Pardon). As an artist, man could connect with the feelings of the common Punjabi and first won their hearts through humour.
Move towards politics
AAP was not the party that Mann made his debut with. In 2011, he joined the People’s Party of Punjab floated by Manpreet Singh Badal, the outgoing finance minister in the Charanjit Singh Channi-led Congress government. The premise was the same as AAP, though. The PPP promised to bring a third alternative to Punjab’s politics. Mann contested from the Lehra constituency and lost.
Entry into AAP
In 2014, the country was witnessing a tectonic shift with the rise of Narendra Modi at the national scene while Aam Aadmi Party was making waves in Delhi. Mann was one of the first prominent faces to join Kejriwal’s outfit in Punjab. He contested the Sangrur Lok Sabha seat in 2014 and won by a stunning margin of over 2 lakh votes. The Jat Sikh comedian went on to become AAP’s flagbearer in Punjab. He won the Sangrur seat again in 2019.
Punjab polls 2017
Many expected Mann to be AAP’s chief ministerial candidate in the 2017 polls. The Akali-BJP government, after a decade in office, were set to lose the elections. Political opponents, meanwhile, ran campaigns, including on social media, seeking to dub Mann as a person given to alcohol. Even as AAP made a promising beginning, winning 20 seats, the Amarinder Singh-led Congress stole the show by winning 77 seats in the 117-member assembly.
Ek mauka Kejriwal te Bhagwant Mann nu in 2022
However, five years later, Mann and AAP were no longer outsiders in Punjab politics. AAP ended the confusion over its chief ministerial face when Kejriwal, after feedback from people, announced Mann as the candidate. The move worked wonders as the ‘jhaadu’ (broom – AAP’s poll symbol) swept all rivals away.
Controversies and tussles
In his more than a decade in politics, man has been no stranger to controversies. In 2019, to counter opponents who painted him an alcoholic man, with his mother Harpal Kaur by his side, pledged to quit drinking to avoid any embarrassment to the party. Mann confessed before a large crowd gathered for Kejriwal’s rally that he used to drink alcohol occasionally.
In 2018, Mann quit as head of AAP’s Punjab unit when Kejriwal retracted allegations he had made against Akali leader Bikram Singh Majithia. In 2016, Mann, as an MP, livestreamed one of his visits to Parliament on social media. He was accused of undermining the security of Parliament complex that has been targeted by terrorists in the past. man, however, remained defiant. His supporters too stayed steadfast.
And as the polls proved, they outnumbered all in Punjab in 2022.