Politics is now serious business for Punjab comedians.
Of the three main players in the state elections early next year, two, Bhagwant Mann and Gurpreet Ghuggi of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), have been finalists in a television show, The Great Indian Laughter Challenge, and one, cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu, has been the show’s judge.
AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal’s wants Punjabis to laugh all the way to the ballot. But the Guru of Comedy just bowled a googly to the AAP by cobbling up a fourth front, the Awaaz-e-Punjab, last week.
Perhaps, Kejriwal should have closely followed Sidhu’s one-liners or Sidhuisms such as, “In the garden of opportunities, it’s much better to pluck the fruit than to wait for it to fall.” He could have gauged better from the name of Sidhu’s Twitter handle: sherryontop.
Sting in the tale
But the AAP has a ready pool of comedians to draw from. The party has appointed stand-up comedian Ghuggi as its new state convener after sacking Sucha Singh Chottepur over a cash sting.
Mann, on his part, is the party’s campaign committee chairman in Punjab and can draw crowds at rallies any time of the day, even 10 at night! Jokes from his stock at rallies are: “The seats of the Congress in Delhi assembly are less than (RJD leader) Lalu Yadav’s children”; and on Badals: “Hukumat woh kartein hain jinka dilon pe raaj hota hai. Kehne ko to murge ke sar pe bhi taaj hota hai . (A ruler is one who rules hearts. For that matter, even a rooster wears a crown).”
Many of Mann’s speeches are popular on social media and beamed by Punjabi web channels.
Ghuggi the antidote?
Inducted into the AAP six months ago, many see Ghuggi as a replacement not just for Sidhu but also for Mann, who has courted one controversy after the other from uploading a video of Parliament’s security to coming drunk to the House, as suspended AAP MP Harinder Singh Khalsa, complained. More recently, Mann accused the media of publishing “paid news” and asked them to leave his rally at Bassi Pathana.
The man, who’s had Punjabis in splits with Ghuggi Junction, Ghuggi da viah (Ghuggi’s marriage). Ghuggi de bache (Ghuggi’s children) and Ghuggi shoo mantar (Ghuggi vanishes) and movies such as Naughty@40, is also a political satirist like Mann.
Clowns and jokers
As Punjab braces for Sidhusims and wisecracks, the ruling Akalis and the Congress are not amused.
State Congress president Amarinder Singh’s first reaction to Sidhu joining the AAP was, “He will be just another clown in the AAP fold.”
The Congress also roped in Sufi singer Hans Raj Hans to draw crowds.
Punjab deputy chief minister and Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal is dismissive about the new crop of comedians-turned-netas. “If comedy is the key (to winning elections), all jokers will be CMs,” he said in an interview.
The AAP’s counter-attacks also provide comic relief.
Reacting to Sukhbir’s statement that “the AAP is like (terror outfit) ISIS and funded by (Pakistan spy agency) ISI”, the party’s Punjab co-incharge, Sanjay Singh, said, “Sukhbir makes irresponsible and laughable statements. He should be comedy minister not home minister.”
As Punjab’s poll arena turns into a comedy circus, it remains to be seen who will have the last laugh.
For once, the comedians may force the SAD-BJP and the Congress to loosen up. One way to counter Ghuggi, for instance, could be the name of his popular show, “Ghuggi yaar, gupp na maar (Don’t blabber, Ghuggi)!”