An audio clip catching Sangrur's Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MP Bhagwant Mann in an outburst against the party's top brass has gone viral on the social media.
In this four-minute part of a telephonic conversation from the eve of the oath-taking ceremony of Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, the comedian-turned-politician on a "Punjab Jodo (Connect Punjab)" campaign these days is heard discussing party national convener's "dictatorial attitude" with Patiala MP Dr Dharamvira Gandhi, who has been suspended recently from the party along with Fatehgarh Sahib counterpart Harinder Singh Khalsa for holding the same opinion. Mann has supported their suspension and even suggested that they, or for that matter any dissenting leader, be expelled.
Mann, who claims these days that "the party is supreme", is heard in the audio saying: "There was no magic in the AAP. We (Mann, Dr Gandhi and Faridkot MP Sadhu Singh) won (our Lok Sabha seats) because of our personal charisma." He is convincing Dr Gandhi that he will ask Kejriwal to let the Punjab AAP decide its leader.
It is the timing of the audio's coming into public domain that has embarrassed Mann, since he is on a statewide mission for the party. In the clip, the motor-mouth MP is targeting party leaders such as HS Phoolka, Sucha Singh Chhotepur and Harinder Singh Khalsa as well and is annoyed by the way the party's central leadership functions. "Had there been any AAP magic, Jyoti Mann (Jalandhar), Himmat Singh Shergill (Anandpur Sahib) and Phoolka (Ludhiana) would also have won (their Lok Sabha contests). It is not the AAP but my standing as a star artist, Dr Gandhi's social work, and Sadhu Singh's contribution to Malwa that have won," Mann is heard before he instigates Dr Gandhi to join him in telling Kejriwal that "Punjab is not a Delhi where your experiments would work and where you could impose a leadership".
He says the central leadership needs to empower the party's MPs to select own teams "to set things right in Punjab". However, he refused to take Khalsa along, saying he was Phoolka's man working to capture the party by promoting protégés.
My voice indeed, says Dr Gandhi
Dr Gandhi confirms that it's his voice in the clip and it is from the day before Kejriwal was sworn-in as Delhi CM. However, he denied any role in leaking the audio. "Maybe some intelligence agency leaked it. I am a clear-hearted man, not into recording telephonic conversations as some AAP leaders are," he said.
He claimed he had even forgotten about this chat. "But it's true that Mann was miffed and he had called me to request that I joined him in demanding autonomy for the Punjab unit. I stick to that demand but he has backtracked and become a puppet in Kejriwal's hands," said Dr Gandhi.
Going through a divorce, Mann had said that "in the choice between family and Punjab, I chose Punjab". "The truth has come out now, that he betrayed not only his family but also Punjab, for instead for standing up for its pride, he preferred to bow before Kejriwal," said Dr Gandhi, advising Mann to "do some soul-searching".
Mann didn't respond to repeated telephone calls meant to seek his comments on the audio clip.