Ruchika M Khanna
Chandigarh, January 18
In 11 years of his political career, 48-year-old Bhagwant Mann has come a long way. Beginning with the now-defunct People’s Party of Punjab and then switching to the Aam Aadmi Party, Mann has experienced two electoral defeats and as many victories.
Drinking issue blown out of proportion
It was all in the past. Even then, things were blown out of proportion. They have nothing else to target me with... no ED or income tax cases. Bhagwant Mann, AAP Sangrur MP
Mann lost the Assembly elections in 2012 and 2017, but made it to the Lok Sabha in 2014 and 2019. “That’s why I’m so grounded... Poll loss or victory is beyond anyone’s control, but what I can try is winning people’s hearts. Born in an ordinary family, I understand what problems common people face. For me, politics is a platform to espouse their cause,” the AAP leader said after being nominated the party’s chief ministerial candidate following a “tele-vote”.
The two-term MP from Sangrur said he was “grateful for the love and affection bestowed on him by the people of Punjab”. “Living up to their expectations is a big responsibility as well,” he remarked. One of the most popular faces of the party in the state, Mann’s political satire and wit have endeared him to the masses. He was the lone AAP candidate from across the country who made it to the Lok Sabha in 2019. In 2014, Punjab elected four AAP MPs, but all barring him rebelled against the party. The “loyalty”, too, seems to have paid off.
“I am confident of heralding a big win for the AAP as the election is being fought on issues concerning governance such as education, health, unemployment and industrial development. The Congress and Akali Dal-BJP governments in the past have ignored these issues... Nearly 22 lakh people have voted in my favour,” he told The Tribune, jokingly calling himself as having come from “public quota”.
On his political opponents targeting him over his “drinking issues”, Mann asserted that it was all in the past and even then, “things were blown out of proportion”. “They have nothing else to target me... no ED or income tax cases. For, I am an ordinary man living in a rented accommodation,” he said.
Though Mann declined to comment on the constituency he would be contesting from, speculation is rife he may choose Dhuri. “My dream and aim is to rebuild a vibrant Punjab. I will work full throttle to achieve that. Former President APJ Abdul Kalam had said ‘real dreams are those that do not allow you to sleep’… my dream is to make Punjab great again. It’s my driving force,” he said.
Sources said declaring Mann as the chief ministerial candidate was a mere formality as his name had been cleared by the party’s top brass earlier this month. After the alliance with Sanyukt Samaj Morcha failed to fructify, he was the sole choice left, they said.
Mann said he was pulled into politics after his political satires attracted the common people. “Punjab is plagued by several problems and each of these is threatening the state’s future. Issues like unemployment, youth migration, drug addiction and unviable agriculture haunt me all the time. If we win, we will ensure our government works for the poor and underprivileged,” he said.
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