AAP's 'Mann' Friday has had the last laugh in Punjab
Layer by layer, Bhagwant donned the garb of a serious politician even as he maintained his humility and people-connect intact
Not many would have expected such a coup when Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) announced him as the chief ministerial candidate in mid-January at Mohali. Of course, he was the people’s choice, literally. Like the primaries in the US, AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal was quite beaming with confidence when he announced the name of Bhagwant Mann, who had more than 90 per cent of 'popular votes'.
This was indication enough for political pundits to read the straw in the wind. And even elementary back-of-envelope math would have predicted a huge slice of the victory pie for AAP.
For once, Mann as chief minister possibility was no parody of Kejriwal. His political take was beyond satirical punches. Layer by layer, Bhagwant donned the garb of a serious politician even as he maintained his humility and people-connect intact.
Of course, none need to advise Mann -- being a volleyball enthusiast -- when to make a perfect smash; Arvind's perfect lob and Mann's perfect finish. And the scoreboard attests to the strategy.
But more than sports it was his TV shows and popularity that made him a household name that won this poll battle for him. Being a satirist, Mann always kept his ears close to the ground; to the pulse of people and heartbeats of rural folks.
And no one was able to judge this potent of Mann, even Navjot Singh Sindhu who was one among the judges of a show where he had participated decades back. Like two back-to-back sixers over the bowler's head, Mann won Lok Sabha elections from Sangrur in 2014 and 2019.
In circa 2022, Mann’s presence helped AAP create a favourable wave in Malwa and Doaba region. It was also a morale booster for its cadres.
It has been proved true as AAP has survived many possible moments that would have gone against it. These include the decision on Prof Devinder Singh Bhullar, the sudden death of actor turned activist Deep Sidhu and parole to jailed Dera Sacha Sauda Head Gurmeet Ram Rahim.
Of course, the next-door-guy image has been Mann's most-trusted password. But as a chief minister, Mann’s challenges would be much more harsh and real than situations he faces on floors of reality shows.
Punjab is facing a huge lot of issues starting from possible sprouting of terrorism to local menace like drug trafficking. And with a totally hostile neighbour in its west, Mann will have to establish a different cord of trust with the central government. For the concern over internal security is no laughing matter and can snowball into a bigger threat totally unexpectedly.
Soon, Mann will find parodies and satires on him as the chief minister. And we can only hope that he, like a true aam aadmi, would join the guffaw much like politicians whom he lampooned did once.