Lok Sabha polls: AAP unveils 8 names for Punjab, with Mann's grip firm

With 5 more seats to be announced, will turncoats from other parties find room on the broom?

Punjab chief minister Bhagwant Mann's tight grip on the reins is evident in his close associates securing Lok Sabha election tickets (photo: PTI)
Punjab chief minister Bhagwant Mann's tight grip on the reins is evident in his close associates securing Lok Sabha election tickets (photo: PTI)
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Harjeshwar Pal Singh

The Aam Aadmi Party was the first out of the gate in Punjab, declaring its candidates for 8 Lok Sabha seats. Being quicker off the blocks has traditionally helped the APP, which relies more on narrative and publicity than on workers on the ground, and this approach needs time before it can create a wave in the party's favour.

The list, though, is highly conservative—five sitting ministers, 2 Congress names and a close buddy of Bhagwant Mann—which must have disappointed many of ordinary workers who still imagine it as a revolutionary party of 'aam aadmi' candidates.

The list has Bhagwant Mann’s stamp. His firm grip on the party reins in Punjab shows, with people close to him—Gurmeet Khudian, Kuldeep Dhaliwal, Laljit Bhullar and Karamjit Anmol—getting tickets.

Mann has also tried to escape the pain that is Sangrur, where AAP has been facing a lot of heat and where none of his favourites resonate with the people. To make the best of the worst situation, he has sent one of his rivals—Meet Hayer, whom he had recently divested of four portfolios!—to bat on the sticky wicket of Sangrur. Win or lose here, Mann will have 'taken care' of his rival either way.

The list has some good and recognised candidates in Gurmeet Khudian, Dr Balbir Singh and Kuldeep Dhaliwal, of course—all good bets, if not outright sure shots, as most parties have tended to choose.

However, in the AAP's case, turning to a mix of sitting ministers and turncoats also reveals one of the limitations of its highly centralised leadership. As seen with the BJP's similar structuring, it depends upon the personal popularity of a Modi(-like) 'personality'—who also ends up taking all the credit and hogging the limelight.

This ensures that there is little scope for any new faces from the party to rise and shine, to grow into popularity. The anonymity and powerlessness of the 92, including most ministers, betrays that the party is struggling to find even 13 recognisable faces to fight the Lok Sabha elections. With five more seats to be announced, chances of more turncoats from other parties finding their room on the broom remains high.

In addition to the popularity and personality cult of Bhagwant Mann, however, the AAP is hoping to highlight the divisions within its opposition in the state, promises of free electricity and relentless advertisement to succeed in the Lok Sabha elections—just like it did in 2022, for the Vidhan Sabha.

Will it work?

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