Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) chief ministerial candidate Bhagwant Mann won Dhuri seat by a margin of 58,206 seats, beating his closest rival and Congress MLA Dalvir Singh Goldy. Donning the trademark yellow turban of freedom fighters, Mr. Mann (48) usually rallies the crowds with ‘inquilab zindabad’.
AAP national convener Arvind Kejriwal tweeted a picture with Mr. Mann and wrote in Hindi “Many congratulations to the people of Punjab for this revolution”.
Ahead of the counting for the Punjab Assembly elections on Thursday, Mr. Mann exuded confidence in the party’s victory in Punjab. “I'm not an astrologer but I know people of Punjab want a change. The number of seats we can cross is 80 even 100," Mr. Mann told ANI.
Mr. Mann is a comedian-turned-politician. He participated in youth comedy festivals and inter-college competitions while he was studying at Shaheed Udham Singh Government College, from where he graduated in 1992. Mr. Mann’s comedy career peaked in 2008 when he participated in the Great Indian Laughter Challenge on Star Plus. Incidentally, Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu was a judge at the reality show. He also acted in National Award winning Film "Main Maa Punjab Dee" directed by Balwant Dullat.
Mr. Mann stepped into mainstream politics in 2011 by joining the Punjab People’s Party (PPP). The party was floated by Manpreet Badal, estranged nephew of the then Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal. He unsuccessfully contested the Lehra constituency in 2012 Vidhan Sabha elections. PPP went on to merge with the Congress in 2016. Mr. Mann, however, left the PPP in 2014, joined the AAP and contested the parliamentary elections from Sangrur from where he had won for the first time. In 2019, he again won from the constituency and became the only candidate from Punjab to bag a seat for his party. This helped in his growing influence and stature in the party.
Mr. Mann’s selection as the party’s CM candidate was based on “public opinion” through a phone poll, Mr. Kejriwal had said.
Mr. Mann has had his share of controversies as well. In 2016, as an MP, he shot a video in the Parliament complex and put it on social media for which he later apologised. Suspended AAP MP Harinder Khalsa complained to the then Speaker Sumitra Mahajan that Mr. Mann came to Parliament under the influence of alcohol. At an AAP event in 2019, Mr. Mann took a vow to never drink again.
Mr. Mann said he has joined politics only to bring back the prosperity and glory of Punjab. “At every platform, from road to Parliament, I have raised my voice for Punjab and for its people and I’ll continue to do the same. On becoming the Chief Minister, I’ll use this power invested in me by the people to work for the people,” he said.
People in Dhuri, especially in the villages, had suggested a mood for a change in the State, seemingly giving an edge to the Aam Aadmi Party over its rivals. Bhagwant Singh, a 55-year-old tea seller reasoned “Bhagwant Mann has a clean image. Moreover, the AAP is promising to improve health services and education which is in the doldrums now.”