Down from four seats in 2014 to just one in 2019, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Punjab found its hero in stand up comedian turned politician Bhagwant Mann who won from Sangrur by 1.10 lakh votes defeating Congress’ Kewal Singh Dhillon. He spoke to The Indian Express after his victory. Excerpts:
You are the only winner for AAP today. Do you see this as a victory of AAP or of your personal charisma?
Party symbol is equally important. You can’t make a new symbol reach people’s hearts in a few days. AAP is Bhagwant Mann and Bhagwant Mann is AAP. We are like Heer-Ranjha who are madly in love and incomplete without each other. My performance as an MP in five years has played a crucial role. I gave people hisaab of Rs 26.61 crore I spent for them. People of Sangrur have shown that one who will work will rule their hearts.
But why do you think Congress and SAD were unable to defeat you? What makes you special? Is it your talent to make people laugh as a comedian?
Let me make this clear today, I am not a comedian. I am a social critic and political satirist. These opposition parties say that I make people laugh throwing chutkuley (jokes). Sorry, I don’t tell jokes to people, jokes are meaningless. I give them satirical criticism on politics which can make them understand issues as well as give dose of humor. Now see my opponent Kewal Singh Dhillon who has declared that he has watches worth Rs 16 lakh…. kya faayda 16 lakh ki ghadiyon ka… waqt to phir bhi bura chal raha hai… (What is the use of watches worth 16 lakh, his time is still running bad…) (LAUGHS)… SAD-BJP and Congress failed to defeat me because I live in the hearts of people. Captain Amarinder Singh and Badals live in palaces… Mehlon mein rehne walon ko dilon mein rehne wale ne hara dia… (People living in palaces have been defeated by a man living in hearts of people….) Opposition should stop saying that I only know how to crack jokes.. then why did they (Congress) call Gurpreet Ghuggi to campaign? Wo kya ghazal sunaata hai?
Why other AAP candidates failed to perform today? Is party infighting the reason? What is your plan ahead for AAP being the state president?
We will introspect over today’s results. If party infighting is the reason, why it did not affect me? Why I did not lose? In fact, I was the one who was blamed the most that I make people leave AAP and create troubles. Those who left AAP- Sukhpal Singh Khaira, Dharamvira Gandhi, Jassi Jasraj- all of them have lost. In fact, congratulations to Khaira.. he went to Bathinda to make Harsimrat Badal win and his mission stands accomplished. By-polls in Punjab are coming and then Delhi and Punjab polls. The target is Punjab 2022 and it is my duty to prepare AAP for it. There will be winners and only winners from AAP. That is my promise to people of Punjab.
But you cannot deny AAP has performed very poorly compared to 2014. How will you set it right? What went wrong?
Till Bhagwant Mann is there, AAP in Punjab will remain in hearts of people. I have eliminated the gap between leaders and people. Now, it is only between aam aadmi and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). We will go to people, talk and connect them with us. There must have been loopholes, I will correct them. They (Opposition) can’t silence me because my each heartbeat is dedicated for Punjab. Mera to sirf naam hai, jitaaya to logon ke pyaar ne hai.. (Mine is only name, it is people’s love that has made me victorious).
Your message for SAD-BJP and Congress winners today?
I am particularly excited to see Sukhbir Singh Badal in Lok Sabha. It will be fun meeting Badal couple there. Earlier, only Harsimrat knew that Bhagwant Mann cannot be silenced. Now her husband will also know. See you soon Badal couple.