As the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) faces a deepening controversy over ouster of its state convener Sucha Singh Chhotepur over a ‘cash sting’, its Sangrur MP Bhagwant Mann has claimed that Delhi CM and party chief Arvind Kejriwal will be acceptable to the people of Punjab but the CM face will be from the state.
In a programme — Press Conference — aired on ABP News on Saturday, reacting to a question on whether the party was not declaring its CM face since an ‘outsider’ Kejriwal will not be acceptable to the people of Punjab, Mann sounded cautiously optimistic over Punjabis accepting Kejriwal as chief minister if the rookie party is voted to power in the assembly elections due early next year.
“Kejriwal will be acceptable to Punjab’s people but he had made it clear that he will serve Delhi for five years. The CM face of the party will be from Punjab,” he said. On speculations that he was eyeing the post himself, the comedian-turned-politician said he was the chairman of the campaign committee of the party and was not a contender for the post of state convener or in race for the CM face. But when asked if he considered himself competent to become Punjab CM, Mann avoided a direct reply, saying, “I am a mass leader who lives in the hearts of people. I speak in their language and will accept whatever responsibility my party gives to me. I have told Kejriwal that I am ready to even paste posters on walls or wave the broom from a Ludhiana bridge.”
On Chhotepur alleging that Delhi leaders were running the show and discrediting state leaders like him, Mann said even the Congress has leaders from Delhi for organisational matters. “Punjab Congress chief Capt Amarinder Singh reports to Sonia Gandhi. Is Sonia from Bathinda? Is Harish Chaudhary (Congress secretary) from Bhucho Mandi? The Delhi leaders will go to other state once we win in Punjab. They will not even contest the panchayat elections here,” he said.
On suspended AAP MP Harinder Khalsa complaining to the Lok Sabha speaker that “he cannot sit next to Mann owing to smell of alcohol”, Mann said Khalsa was hand-in-glove with the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and together they want to decimate AAP’s ‘Mission Punjab’. “The Congress and SAD will not be able to win even if they form an alliance or even if they bring US president Barack Obama. I am addressing rallies till 10 at night. I put them on Facebook. I am ready to put what I do after that also on Facebook. But let there be a dope test for all MPs,” he said.
Only party can decide to make ‘cash sting’ video public: Mann
Though Mann repeatedly said these were times of Right to Information (RTI) Act and social media, and everything was before the public, he failed to defend why the AAP was not making the cash sting video public despite Chhotepur’s demand. “It is up to the party to decide to make the video public. I have no hand in the sting. I do not even know who filmed it. There are more people who are coming out with complaints against Chhotepur demanding cash. All this will be put before the panel set up to investigate the allegations against him,” he said.