Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) Punjab chief minister candidate Bhagwant Mann on Wednesday conducted a door-to-door campaign for the Dhuri assembly seat from where he is in the fray and which falls in his home turf of Sangrur.
Wooing the voters, Mann said, “Till February 20 our responsibility is yours and after that all your responsibilities will be ours.”
“The fight is not to save some political families but to save Punjab, the farmers, the agriculture, the industry and the youth. Owing to lack of employment and better education infrastructure, our youth is moving abroad. We will stop our talent from migrating by providing them adequate employment opportunities,” the second-time Lok Sabha member from Sangrur said in his folksy style.
Mann, 48, who is also the AAP’s state president, is the party’s prominent face in the state that will go to the polls on February 20.
On the issue of farmers, Mann said the previous governments had given a lot of pain to the farmers owing to poor marketing of their produce. “After working hard, farmers’ crops are getting spoiled in the mandis and they have to bear the loss. The AAP government will not let the farmers bear the brunt of crop loss at any cost.”
He assured the farmers that once the crop reached the market all the responsibility for the crops would lie with the government. “Farmers won’t have to bear the loss if the crop gets spoiled due to rain, and they will be compensated with full payment within 24 hours.”
Slamming his bete noire and Congress state President Navjot Singh Sidhu, who is trying to convince the party to declare him the chief ministerial face ahead of the polling, Mann said, “A person who can’t take care of his mother, how will he serve the people of Punjab?”
Training his guns at the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), comedian-turned-politician Mann, whose satirical speeches are a huge hit in the rural areas, said Parkash Singh Badal has been urging people to cast their vote in favour of the party for his last three terms, saying as this is his last election.
“Now he (Badal) is not of the age to serve, but his greed for power forced him to contest at the age of 94.”
Mann said power in Punjab is limited to a few political families. “However, our government will take out the power from those families and take it to the common man. The government of the Aam Aadmi Party will be the government of all sections of Punjab.”
He said being an MP from Sangrur he has always raised the voice of Punjab in Parliament. “Similarly, on becoming Chief Minister I will work round the clock to resolve the problems and protect the rights of every section.”
Mann, who joined the AAP in 2014 and won the Sangrur parliamentary seat by 211,721 votes, took over the reins of the party unit in 2019. He retained his parliamentary seat in 2019 by 111,111 votes.
Formerly a popular comedian-actor, Mann, known for his trademark ‘basanti’ turban, a colour associated with Shaheed Bhagat Singh, has had his fair share of controversies in recent years, especially linked to his drinking habit.
In this poll, Mann, 48, has been pitted against Congress candidate and sitting legislator Dalvir Singh Goldy, 40, who has challenged his main rival for an open debate on the issue of development work.
“I see Mann as a comedian, not a serious politician,” Goldy, who has been trying to build a narrative of a battle between an ‘outsider’ versus ‘Dhuri da putt’ (son of Dhuri) as he’s a resident of the constituency, told IANS.
The SAD-BSP alliance has fielded former Sangrur MLA Parkash Chand Garg from this seat, while Sarbjit Singh Alal is the Sanyukt Samaj Morcha candidate and Randeep Singh Deol is the BJP’s.
Unlike Goldy, the candidates of all other prominent parties are outsiders, belonging to other Assembly segments.
In 2017, Goldy won Dhuri by defeating his arch-rival and AAP leader Jasvir Singh Jassi Sekhon with a margin of 2,811 votes. Sekhon polled 46,536 votes against Goldy’s 49,347.
With 74 villages, the constituency is mainly rural and Dhuri is the only town. The constituency has 164,322 voters, including 77,721 women.
In the 2017 Punjab Assembly polls, the Congress won 77 seats in the 117-member House, while the SAD-BJP alliance could win only 18 seats. The AAP emerged as the second-largest party with 20 seats.
(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)