Bhagwant Mann interview: AAP will fill Punjab’s coffers, clear debts
Hours after AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal named him the party’s CM face for the upcoming assembly elections in Punjab, HT spoke to Bhagwant Mann on various issues.
Hours after Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) national convener and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal named him the party’s chief ministerial face for the upcoming assembly elections in Punjab, HT spoke to Bhagwant Mann (48) about his poll pitch, the impact of Sanyukt Samaj Morcha -- a political front of the farmer unions that had took part in the stir against the Centre’s farm laws -- and the charge that the party was being controlled from Delhi. Edited excerpts:
Why should people vote for AAP?
People have made up their minds to vote for us. In 2017, they trusted Captain (Amarinder Singh), thinking he was the same Capt of 2002-2007. Prashant Kishor also got them to make lofty promises. People feel cheated because the Congress didn’t fulfill its promises and tried to wriggle out by replacing Capt with (Charanjit Singh) Channi for just 70-80 days. This will not work as Channi and others were part of his (Captain’s) team. We are doing positive politics, laying out our roadmap. Khazana vi bharange, debt vi clear karange aur logan nu facilities vi dewange (We will fill the state coffers, clear the debts while ensuring that facilities are provided to the local residents).
There is a feeling that Sanyukt Samaj Morcha will dent the AAP’s prospects. Kejriwal ji also conceded this. What’s your sense?
SSM is a political party. Let’s stop calling them farmers. They are fighting elections and the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (an umbrella organisation that spearheaded the farmers’ stir) has already said that the unions contesting the elections are not part of it. People are very intelligent. They know very well who is going to dent whom, who is splitting votes, and who is helping whom. I don’t think there will be much loss to us.
You haven’t been campaigning hard, so far. Why?
The circumstances were such -- first due to Covid-19 and then the EC restrictions. But the EC guidelines suit us. We are specialists of door-to-door campaigning. We forced others to go from door to door. They used to get votes by waiving their hands from helicopters earlier. We have passionate people in our social media teams. Their people are on salaries. If restrictions are relaxed, I will switch gears and hold rallies.
In 2014 and 2017, AAP’s footprint was limited to just Malwa and absent from Majha and Doaba. Have you made up?
The response we are getting from these regions is competing with Malwa. Our Tiranga Yatra in Pathankot and Jalandhar recorded good turnouts. I got a huge response from Patti. We will do very well in all three regions.
Allegations are that the AAP is being run from Delhi. What do you have to say?
Is the Congress run from Bhucho Mandi? Every third day Channi or Sidhu are called. Does Harish Chaudhary belong to Mansa? Where are Gajendra Shekhawat, Hardeep Puri and Meenakshi Lekhi from? Ours is a national party. It is headquartered in Delhi. This does not mean that decisions are taken in Delhi. All decisions are taken by the Punjab leadership.
In 2017, you did well in reserved constituencies. How will Channi’s appointment as the first SC chief minister impact the electoral dynamics?
We don’t do caste politics. We talk about 2.75 crore Punjabis. When we say that we will transform schools, who will benefit from it? The poor; and ditto for the hospitals. We are getting the same response from every section.