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HindustanTimes Thu,18 Sep 2014

On AAP wagon now, comic Mann faces serious challenge

Neeraj Mohan, Hindustan Times  Sangrur, March 11, 2014
First Published: 00:47 IST(11/3/2014) | Last Updated: 00:50 IST(11/3/2014)

As expected, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on Monday named comedian-turned-politician Bhagwant Mann as its Lok Sabha candidate from the Sangrur parliamentary seat.

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Mann recently left the Manpreet Badal-led People’s Party of Punjab (PPP), on whose ticket he had unsuccessfully contested the 2012 Punjab assembly polls from Lehragaga segment, which falls under the farmer-dominated Sangrur LS constituency. Mann told HT, “The AAP has shown faith in me, and I will work hard to ensure victory of the common man from Sangrur.” He has a high-profile battle at hand, against incumbent Congress MP Vijay Inder Singla and Shirmani Akali Dal’s senior leader Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa.

Though Mann is a native of Satoj village in Sangrur, there are also differences within the AAP over his “parachuting” for the ticket — four other leaders, including the AAP’s district convener AS Mann, had applied for the ticket, while Bhagwant Mann only recently joined the party and not completed the AAP’s much-publicised application formalities. Having left the PPP over “ideological differences”, Mann said, “I will work under the guidelines of the AAP district convener. There are no differences within the party. This is the common man’s fight, and we will all work together.”

The convener, AS Mann, gave a balanced reaction, saying, “The decision (to give Bhagwant Mann the ticket) is surprising. But with the party having made the decision, we have decided to fall in the line and extend all support to him.”

Talking about the campaign strategy, Mann harped on the ‘aam aadmi’ (common man) tag again. “We will visit every house in the constituency. This is a fight between the common man and politicians. I am confident that the aam aadmi will win.” On issues being faced by residents of Sangrur, he said, “Due to a fight between the Congress and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), the people of Sangrur have always remained at the receiving end. They (SAD, Congress) ditched the people, particularly the youth, with their false promises”.

Without naming Dhindsa, who is a Rajya Sabha MP at present, he said, “Such leaders cannot actually face defeat as, a few hours after losing the Lok Sabha elections they are nominated to the Rajya Sabha. This is enough to prove that they are concerned about themselves, not about the people.”

However, Mann’s “sudden entry” into the AAP has irked certain party leaders, who feel that the move would dent the party’s image across Punjab. The four leaders who had applied for the ticket are district convener AS Mann; Darshan Singh Naniwal of Barnala, who had left the Congress to join the AAP; Mohammad Jamil-ur-Rehman, who got over 69,00 votes in the last LS elections as a BSP candidate; and Jagjit Singh Dhuri. With only 40 days left to the voting, Bhagwant Mann will have to win them over too.

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