AAP had no choice except to name Bhagwant Mann as its Punjab CM candidate, feel political analysts

AAP’s Punjab CM face Bhagwant Mann, however, would do well to improve his public perception as a non-serious politician, political analysts opined

AAP had no choice except to name Bhagwant Mann as its Punjab CM candidate, feel political analysts

Bipin Bhardwaj

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) may have resorted to an elaborate charade before naming Bhagwant Mann as its Chief Ministerial candidate for the ensuing Punjab Vidhan Sabha elections, but the reality is that it didn’t have much of a choice, feel political analysts.

The Punjab unit of the AAP surprised everyone by winning 20 seats in the 2017 Assembly elections. However, it went on to face a major crisis after the strength of its MLAs got reduced to just nine in over four years. The AAP also lost credibility due to internal dissent, defections and ‘high command’ culture.

Many popular faces such as HS Phoolka, Dr Dharamvir Gandhi, Kanwar Sandhu, Sukhpal Singh Kharia snapped ties with the AAP, accusing its national convener and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal for controlling the Punjab unit of the party from Delhi, thus making it a “one man show”.

Moreover, in the last five years, the AAP’s central leadership failed to nurture and groom its leaders in Punjab.

Political analysts opined that in the present situation, it could well turn out to be a direct fight between Congress and the AAP in Punjab. But Bhagwant Mann, they feel, would do well to improve his public perception as a non-serious politician.

Dr Gurmeet Singh, head of the Department of Hindi at Panjab University, feels that the AAP did not have much of a choice on who to name as its CM candidate. He pointed out that Bhagwant Mann was its best-known leader in Punjab, who managed to retain his popularity even during the so-called Modi wave by getting elected as MP for two terms from Sangrur.

"No doubt he is infamous for 'drinking', but his talent overcomes this shortcoming. Mann has a golden opportunity if he does end up being Punjab CM if AAP somehow manages to get a majority in the Vidhan Sabha. In the absence of political stalwarts like Parkash Singh Badal and Capt. Amarinder Singh, Mann is primarily facing Congress’ Charanjit Singh Channi. Mann also has the opportunity to change the narrative to ‘Ab ki baar Kerjiwal sarkar’," Dr Singh opined.

Prof. Mohammad Khalid, a political analyst, too opined that Bhagwant Mann faces a perception handicap. “You know this is a fight of perception. How do people perceive him as a CM candidate? What does Bhagwant Mann have to offer to the people of Punjab as a CM candidate?” said Prof Khalid.

“By declaring Bhagwant Mann as its CM face, AAP has also created pressure on its political opponents to declare their CM candidates,” Prof Khalid opined.

Sanjay Jain, a Chandigarh-based chartered accountant, was of the view that Kejriwal chose Mann to ensure that his own writ runs if the AAP manages to seize power in Punjab. "Kejriwal has chosen a 'yes man' by going for Bhagwant Mann, a Sikh face. Mann would be nothing but a rubber stamp for Kejriwal,” he said.

Jeewan Naryal, a Palampur-based political analyst, was of the view that Mann would prove to be a good CM provided he improved his public image. “I personally feel that Mann is better than many other politicians who are not only corrupt but habitual of other wrongdoings too," Naryal opined.

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Published: 19 Jan 2022, 7:41 PM