As his party's national convener named him the Chief Ministerial candidate for the upcoming Punjab Assembly polls, one could easily notice his eyes tear up, perhaps remembering the extraordinary journey he has made in his life after coming from Satoj, a village in Punjab's Sangrur district. A stand-up comic, an actor, and a two-time Member of Parliament (MP), Bhagwant Mann is Aam Aadmi Party's man for Punjab.
After a long wait, and a televoting campaign that asked Punjabis to suggest the CM candidate for the party, Delhi CM and AAP's national convener Arvind Kejriwal on Tuesday announced that Bhagwant Mann is Aam Aadmi Party (AAP's) chief ministerial candidate for Punjab. In a dramatic reveal of the results of the televoting drive, Kejriwal said that more than 21 lakh people participated in the vote, and Mann got the majority of votes i.e. 93%.
Born in a Jat Sikh family in Satoj village of Sangrur district, Punjab, Mann has pursued his graduation from Shaheed Udham Singh Government College, Sunam, where he began participating in youth comedy festivals and inter-college competitions. With his unparalleled wits and humour, Mann won two gold medals at a competition at the Punjabi University, Patiala for his college.
Mann developed comedy routines about typical Indian issues such as politics, business and sport and debuted with comedy album Gobhi Diye Kachiye Vaparanay in 1992. Partnering with Jagtar Jaggi, Mann then went on to make a television program called Jugnu Kehnda Hai for Alpha ETC Punjabi. Parting ways with Jaggi after ten years, Mann partnered with Rana Ranbir and made the television program, Jugnu Mast Mast for Alpha ETC Punjabi. Mann has also worked with legendary satirist Jaspal Bhatti.
However, Mann rose to fame across the country when he participated in the Great Indian Laughter Challenge on Star Plus. Fun fact: Navjot Singh Sidhu, his adversary from Congress in current election, was the judge on this show.
Bhagwant Mann, in his 3-decades long comedy career, has made more than 20 comedy albums. He has also acted in 13 Punjabi films.
Entry in politics
In 2011, after doing political satire for years, Bhagawant Mann took the plunge in active politics and joined the People's Party of Punjab (PPP) founded by Parkash badal's nephew Manpreet Badal. However, his first attempt at elections did not go down well. He contested assembly elections from Lehra constituency in 2012, but could not win.
In March 2014, Mann joined the Aam Aadmi Party to contest elections in the Sangrur Lok Sabha constituency. He won by 211,721 votes. He was also the convener of AAP Punjab but resigned after Arvind Kejriwal tendered an unconditional apology to Bikram Singh Majithia over drug mafia case. In 2017, he contested elections in Jalalabad against Sukhbir Singh Badal and Ravneet Singh Bittu. He lost the elections to Badal by 18,500 votes. In 2019, he won again Lok Sabha seat from Sangrur in General elections of India by 111,111 votes. He is only Member of parliament from Aam Aadmi Party in the lower house (Lok Sabha) of the parliament.
Drinker to teetotaler
Mann and controversy have gone hand-in-hand. He was frequently targeted by rivals over his past addiction to alcohol. He has been accused of compromising Parliament security and even attending the house drunk. After visuals of him being allegedly drunk during public interactions went viral, Mann made a teetotal pledge and an oath to never drink again at a party event in 2019. His mother by his side, he had pledged that he will devote his time to working for the people of Punjab.
Known as fiery orator, Bhagwant Mann's speeches inside the parliament often go viral. With his subtle satire developed over years, Mann's speeches are not only enjoyed by opposition benches but also treasury benches.
In one of his famous speeches from 2014, Mann punned on the BJP's iconic election slogan of 'Achche Din (good days)' to ask just when the good days would be arriving, especially with fuel prices and railway fares going up. In a satirical poem titled "Ache din kab aane wale hai?" (When will good days come?), Mann took down the BJP's poll promises one by one.
In another iconic speech, he targeted the BJP over number of turncoats in the saffron party.
"Do you know there are 116 MPs in the BJP who are turncoats? I feel TV channels are wasting money on electoral surveys, they should just study where these MPs are going to figure out who wins. I will ask Modiji to modify the oath of secrecy for these MPs. It should go like this, 'main yeh shapath leta hoon, ki koi shapath le ya na le, main shapath loonga hi loonga,' (I will be sworn in to power, whether anyone else does or not)," he said with a chortle.
Though AAP's been leading in the state in all surveys and opinion polls, the multipolar contest in the Northern state is more than what meets the eye. With Congress' Charanjit Singh Channi rising to fame rapidly across the state, and the BJP and Amarinder Singh's newly formed party joining hands, the contest in Punjab is far from over. With little over a month left for the polling day, Mann faces the challenge of continuing the ongoing momentum of his party. With restrictions imposed on physical rallies and road shows in the wake of third Covid wave, Mann has the responsibility to reach out to people of Punjab through digital campaigning and other means, while facing parties like Congress, BJP and SAD, that have more resources than the AAP. The AAP's performance in the last assembly elections in the state is surely a silver lining for Mann, and he would try his best to capitalize on the gains in this election, leading AAP to the long awaited victory in the bordering state.