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Saturday, September 18, 2021

AAP reluctant to name him CM face, Mann flexes political muscle

AAP, so far, has been wary in naming Mann as the Chief Ministerial candidate for the 2022 Punjab polls. Mann, on the other hand, has repeatedly emphasised that party leaders and the cadre want him to be named as the CM candidate as soon as possible.

Written by Man Aman Singh Chhina | Chandigarh |
Updated: September 6, 2021 7:17:36 am
The case pertains to January 10, 2020, when the Chandigarh Police had booked AAP Punjab chief and Sangrur MP Bhagwant Mann and the seven party MLAs on charges of rioting, assault and obstructing police from performing their duties during a protest near the MLA hostel in Sector 4, Chandigarh, against the power tariff hike. (File)

There are whiffs of a muted rebellion brewing between the central leadership of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the party’s Punjab unit president and Sangrur MP, Bhagwant Mann. The AAP so far has been wary about naming Mann as the chief ministerial candidate for 2022 Punjab Assembly polls. Mann on the other hand has repeatedly emphasised that party leaders and cadre want him to be named as the CM candidate as soon as possible.

The two-time Sangrur MP has been meeting droves of supporters daily at his house for the past one week and sending out signals that he is the popular choice amongst party members to be named as the AAP’s CM candidate, should they win next year’s elections. Some AAP MLAs too have come out in open support of Mann’s candidature, thereby underlining a rift within the party.

Mann himself has given the impression of being in a sulk over not being named the CM candidate and while he attended the joining of veteran Akali leader, Sewa Singh Sekhwan, in Gurdaspur district in the presence of national convener of the party and Delhi Chief Minister, Arvind Kejriwal, on August 26, he maintained an uncharacteristic low profile.

In an interaction with media persons on Saturday in Sangrur, Mann made it clear that a large number of AAP workers want to see him as the CM candidate. He also made remarks that the party must see the ground realities and listen to ground workers while deciding on the name of the CM candidate.

Sources in the AAP say Mann’s comments and actions of attempting to force the central leadership’s hand in naming him as the CM face of the party has not gone down well.

There has been a sustained campaign on social media too by Mann, highlighting the crowds outside his house and delegations of workers who come to meet him every day. While Mann was not available for a comment, a close aide of his said that these crowds were all party workers meeting the Sangrur MP voluntarily.

“People call us from all over Punjab saying that they want to meet Mann sahib. We can hardly refuse them. Our workers are very vocal and they are different from those of other political parties. There is no attempt by Mann sahib to make them come or to force the leadership to name him as the CM face,” said the aide.

Apart from the workers, there have been MLAs of the party who have openly supported Mann’s name as the CM’s face for the 2022 polls. Kotkapura MLA, Kultar Singh Sandhwan, and Mehal Kalan MLA, Kulwant Singh Pandori, have been among those who have openly supported his candidature. Many other MLAs have also gone and met him at his residence in the past week as a covert show of tacit support for him.

Speaking to The Indian Express, AAP’s Harpal Singh Cheema, who is the Leader of Opposition and also MLA from Dirba, an Assembly constituency in Mann’s Sangrur Lok Sabha constituency, downplayed the gatherings at Mann’s house. “These are just enthusiastic workers. There is nothing more to it,” he said.

However, even as Mann seems to be making it clear that he will accept only his name as the CM candidate, sources say the Delhi leadership is in no mood yet to do so, given issues with his “social acceptance” and “personal conduct”.

A senior party leader, however, confided that the central leadership of AAP has taken a dim view of Mann’s flexing of political muscle and attempting to force his name to be announced as CM face of the party. “Arvind Kejriwal ji is currently away in Rajasthan attending a Vipassana camp for one week. It is interesting that Mann has raised his banner of revolt while he is away. Arvind ji will come to Punjab after returning from the camp and everything will fall into place. Such actions have no place in the party,” he said.

The political machinations within the Punjab unit have also resulted in barbs being thrown against the state co-incharge and Delhi MLA, Raghav Chadha, alleging that he had political ambitions in Punjab and therefore Bhagwant Mann being sidelined. Chadha has denied such insinuations and refuted the claim that he wanted to contest the elections in Punjab.

However, this has not stopped a whisper campaign from being launched against Chadha, which accuses him of trying to bring in a businessman from Dubai as a CM candidate. Another social media message circulated against him accused Chadha of having had a tiff with an imaginary person in the party over his political ambitions in the state.

Raghav Chadha has denied both these rumours and took to Twitter to debunk reports of him being in talks with a Dubai businessman.

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