The sun is sinking fast, and the country roads are beginning to empty up, but a field by the roadside at Bhunarheri village in Sanaur is awash with a sea of people. They are everywhere: on the rooftops, on tractor-trailers and in front of the makeshift stage where Bhagwant Mann, the star campaigner of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), is sitting cross-legged, distinguished by his lemon yellow turban that is fast becoming a style statement in rural Punjab.
The crowd breaks into a frenzy the minute the announcer calls for “Maan da Maan, Sardar Bhagwant Mann”. Mann soaks in the loud cheers, grinning and waving, and then belts out “Inqalab zindabad, jo bole so nihal”.
A natural at public speaking, he makes an immediate connect with the audience as he asks the security-wali “bhenjis” to move aside: “Eh saade hi bande hai, vision na kharaab karo.” The people cheer loudly as he tells them they will make history on February 4 by starting the second war of independence for Punjab.
Anyone who knows Punjabis, know they love a revolution, and Mann makes each one of them feel they are part of one. The farming crowd roars as he laments how the successive governments have finished “kisaani”. The youth, he rues, are hounded by unemployment and drugs. “Naukrian mangan jaande ne te daanga paindiyaan ne.” There is a collective murmur as he cites the case of a twoyear-old addict. “He got addicted to smack through his mother’s milk.”
ON THE OFFENSIVE
As he takes to his razor-sharp wit, the first in the line of fire is Union minister Harsimrat Badal: “Tera saga bhai (Bikram Majithia), Punjab de putt kha gaya, chitte raahi.”
Then it’s the turn of Congress CM face Capt Amarinder Singh, who, he claims, is hand in gloves with the Badals. “Ehna da chacha Patiale wala ralya hoya hai,” he says. Calling deputy CM Sukhbir Badal ‘Sukha’, he mimics his spiel on “badi, badi roads”. “Assi luk khaani hai, private companies nu sadkan bech dittiyan ne,” he says as the crowd breaks into a laughter.
Then he mocks both Capt and CM Parkash Singh Badal for trying to get sympathy votes by saying it was their last election. “Shouldn’t they be sitting at home then?”
THE FINAL PITCH
The AAP government, which will come to power on March 11, he thunders, will jail all the corrupt within one month of coming to power. “Majithia, Tota, Maluka, Rozy, Raju, Kaju...” he reels off the names as the crowd bursts into peals of laughter. Then follows a comical lesson in using the EVMs. “Wait till you hear the beep,” he says, calling it the “cheekh”of the other two parties.
The crowd, which has been clamouring for his ditty on the Badals, called “kiklee”, finally gets it. And so it ends, with the crowd chanting away. Much after Mann leaves, precariously perched on the hood of a Fortuner, youngsters slowly empty the venue to loud songs and big smiles.