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Posted at: May 16, 2019, 6:54 AM; last updated: May 16, 2019, 9:03 AM (IST)CAMPAIGN TRAIL

Mann’s fans keep him afloat

Confident of another victory, AAP’s Sangrur candidate Bhagwant Mann says his next target 2022 Punjab Assembly elections
Mann’s fans keep him afloat
Bhagwant Mann meets supporters during campaigning in a Sangrur village.

Jupinderjit Singh & Parvesh Sharma
Tribune News Service
Sangrur, May 15 

“Aa gaya, bai aa gaya.” Speakers mounted on an approaching truck announce from a distance causing a hustle and bustle in a crowd gathered at Gharaat village in Dirba on the Sangrur-New Delhi highway. The truck stops near the crowd and here comes AAP’s Sangrur LS candidate, Bhagwant Mann, perched atop his SUV. 

People rush towards him carrying garlands and eager to shake hands. A youth hands him water in a disposable glass. “Look its water, not liquor,” he shows to a TV channel reporter accompanying him.  

Meanwhile, Mann asks the cavalcade to move on. “We have to do 30 villages today,” he announces while he greets people on both sides of the highway. Rows of motorcycle-borne youths speed ahead. “These are youths from the next village. Other politicians go to the villages, but people take me to their villages. That is the difference. That is their love for me,” he tells The Tribune squatting comfortably on a mattress atop his SUV. 

“But some of these youths are teenagers, who don’t even have stubble on their faces. They are not voters.” We point out. “They would be in 2022, when Punjab chooses new government.” 

This is Bhagwant Mann 2019 version. He is battling for Lok Sabha re-election with an eye on consolidating his position for 2022 Punjab Assembly elections. 

“Youths are the harbinger of change. Most of these are unemployed. I am not happy that they are participating in my rally on a working day. They should be employed somewhere or studying, but they don’t as they do not see any hope,” Mann says. 

His cavalcade has reached Khanpur Sekri. Before he gets ready to speak, he asks for a red bull, an energy drink, from his cousin. “I consume 10 bottles daily,” he reveals. He continues the conversation while greeting his supporters standing on either side of the village lanes or those on roof tops as well.  

“Asheerwad dena bajurgo,” he says to elders.” He keeps swinging his arm indicating his symbol, broom (jhaaru). “Broom away Akalis and Congress like dust,” he roars. 

But AAP is not getting much response in the state, we point out. “It is,” he insists adding: “Remember it was Sangrur the epicentre. It was and it will be. The AAP will form government in Punjab in 2022,” he reiterates. 

As his cavalcade reaches Gujjran village, he jumps down from his SUV and drives a tractor through the village. The act goes live on social media. The crowd cheers when he draws a parallel to his rise and Anil Kapoor’s Nayak. “Remember Nayak? He trounced the mighty chief minister the way we will do.”

In the next village, he pillion rides a motorcycle. “I have to speed up the cavalcade at times else we won’t be able to complete day’s schedule,” he explains the theatrics while climbing back to the rooftop of his car. A woman from a house insists he should step inside to have tea. “I need your blessings more,” Mann says. 

He stops for an impromptu speech at Khanpur Vakiran and invoked the memory of Chhote Sahibzaade. “For the first time, Parliament paid homage to the martyrs when I demanded it. No other politician took up the matter earlier.”  

He moves to the present times by taking on the Congress and Akalis, especially the Badal family. “The Badal bahu has 23.5 kg gold jewellery, which would be more than the quantity of wheat in your house today. I won’t even have that much cow dung cakes in my house.” Applause and laughter follows.

Mann drew similar crowds in 2017 Assembly elections as well. When reminded that it didn’t translate into votes, he brushed it aside. “We will form the next government.” And what about infighting and challenge by Sukhpal Khaira? “Khaira has joined those who can’t even pronounce his own name properly. He will learn a lesson this election.

“Those who were weak or opportunist or could be prevailed upon by rivals have left, but Mann cannot be bought or suppressed, he retorts. Then he asks his supporters to increase volume of the speaker, which blares his theme song all the way: Tere yaar nu dabann nu firde hein, pur dabda kithe aa. Meanwhile, he moves to the next village as motorcycle-borne youths speed ahead.

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