Bhagwant Mann is AAP’s CM face for Punjab polls
The name of Mann, a two-time parliamentarian from Sangrur who is considered the party’s most popular Punjabi face, was announced at an event in Mohali, where Kejriwal declared the result of the party’s phone-in survey asking people to suggest their preferences as CM.
Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) national convener and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Tuesday named Bhagwant Mann (48) as the party’s chief ministerial face for the upcoming assembly elections in Punjab.
The name of Mann, a two-time parliamentarian from Sangrur who is considered the party’s most popular Punjabi face, was announced at an event in Mohali, where Kejriwal declared the result of the party’s phone-in survey asking people to suggest their preferences as CM. Kejriwal said the party received 2.15 million responses from people.
“Many people included my name. I had already said that I am not in the race so we declared their votes as invalid. Of the remaining responses, 93.3% took Sardar Bhagwant Mann’s name,” said the AAP chief, who was flanked by Mann, leader of opposition Harpal Singh Cheema, AAP’s Punjab affairs in-charge Jarnail Singh and co-incharge Raghav Chadha on the dais.
Mann said he was named (the CM face) not only by the party but also the people of Punjab. A “very big responsibility” has been given to him by the party, he said. “Lakhs of people have reposed their faith in me and it has become my double responsibility. I will work with double courage,” he added.
The AAP launched a mobile number on January 13, on which people were asked to give their opinion till 5 pm on January 17.
Kejriwal said that (Punjab Congress president) Navjot Singh Sidhu was number two with 3.6% votes. “Bhagwant Mann is officially declared as AAP’s chief ministerial face,” he announced, amid resounding applause and slogan-shouting from party supporters.
Voting for Punjab’s 117 assembly seats will be held on February 20 and the counting of votes will be taken up on March 10. AAP is looking to dislodge the Congress from power after having emerged as the largest Opposition party in the 2017 elections. Five years ago, AAP contested without a CM face , seen by many as a big reason for its performance falling short of expectations.
The comedian-turned-politician Mann unsuccessfully contested the 2012 Punjab assembly polls from Lehragaga in Sangrur as a candidate of the Manpreet Singh Badal-led People’s Party. He joined AAP in 2014 and was pitted against Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa from the Sangrur Lok Sabha seat. He defeated Dhindsa by a record margin of over 200,000 votes. He again won the Lok Sabha seat in 2019 -- the only AAP candidate to win -- and also became AAP’s Punjab unit chief.
“After forming the government, everyone has to work towards making Punjab a place where people will call the shots, not chamchas (sycophants),” Mann said, while thanking people for their support and prayers.
Kejriwal said people from many sections of the society were protesting by sitting atop water tanks in the state and their issues must be addressed. “In my view, the pen of those holding positions of authority should be used for the welfare of the people. This is the only way we can make Punjab what it was,” he said.
Invoking former president APJ Abdul Kalam, Punjabi poet Surjit Pattar and former South African president Nelson Mandela, Mann vowed to work for the people.
Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu mocked Mann. “The bridegroom (CM candidate) may have been chosen but it depends on the people whether a wedding should take place or not. I congratulate the bridegroom, though. Our high command is intelligent and whatever decision it will take, it will be in the interest of the state,” he said.
Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal said the move was “falling back on compromised candidate” as no one was ready to lead AAP in Punjab. “AAP convener Arvind Kejriwal never wanted to make Bhagwant Mann the face of the party in Punjab. He has been saying so to Mann’s face because the party was looking for a capable candidate. It is also a fact that AAP sounded off a number of prospective candidates but each and every one of them refused to lead the party,” said Badal.