The firebrand comedian-turned-leader of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Sangrur MP, Bhagwant Mann, wants to fight the Punjab assembly elections due in a year, and that too against deputy chief minister and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal.
In an interview to Punjabi news channel ‘ABP Sanjha’, promos of which are now online, Mann has said, “Je meri party mainu ijaazat dawe, jithon Sukhbir badal khada houga, main ladnai... mera dil karde!’ (If my party permits, I’d fight the election from wherever Sukhbir Badal would stand... that’s what my heart says).” Mann also declared that the first list of AAP candidates for the February 2017 polls would be out by the end of next month. This was also stated by Durgesh Pathak, the party’s organisation in-charge, when HT called him.
Mann’s comment appears to be a strategy at angling for the AAP’s CM-candidature; it’s worth noting that AAP national convener and now-Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal too had fought against Congress’ top Delhi leader and the then incumbent CM Sheila Dikshit in 2013. On the issue, in the ABP interview, he said the AAP CM candidate would be “aam” (common) and not “khaas” (special). He reportedly said no leader “landing via parachute or helicopter” would be the CM nominee.
The report further quotes Mann as saying that there was nothing on the lines of BJP leader and former cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu joining the AAP. Neither the party nor Sidhu had approached the other, he reportedly said. This comes close on the heels of former Amritsar MP Sidhu’s wife and BJP MLA, Dr Navjot Kaur Sidhu, telling HT that they would take part in the election but not from the BJP if it continued its SAD alliance. Meanwhile, in a recent interview to another channel and also to HT some weeks ago, Kejriwal has said he would welcome Sidhu to AAP.
As for Mann, however, on the AAP’s suspended MPs, Dr Dharamvira Gandhi and Harinder Singh Khalsa, he said he would soon “take the first step” and approach them to create unity in the AAP.
In the brief video that serves as teaser for the interview that was yet to be telecast, he also talks of how “when you need to kill a snake, you hit its head, not the tail!”
Mann, who started his career with now-Congress leader Manpreet Badal’s now-defunct People’s Party of Punjab (PPP), had fought the 2012 assembly poll from Lehragaga and lost to the Congress’ Rajinder Kaur Bhattal. In 2014, though, he won the Sangrur Lok Sabha seat on the AAP ticket with a record margin.
Calls to Mann’s phone by HT went unanswered.