Bhagwant Mann’s remarkable journey: From comedian ‘Jugnu’ to AAP CM face

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It took barely 10 years for Bhagwant Mann to undertake his remarkable journey from being a professional comedian to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)’s chief ministerial candidate for the upcoming Punjab Assembly elections.

Widely known for having played many comic roles in his satirical shows on various ills besetting the society, Mann has been popular in Punjab for one of his such characters, “Jugnu”, and for his earliest audio pieces like “Kulfi garma garam”.

On Tuesday, when the 48-year-old Mann was named the AAP’s CM face for the 20 February polls, after a phone-in poll was conducted by the party in which 93 per cent people reportedly voted for him as the CM candidate, he could not hold back his tears as party supremo and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal hugged him.

Bhagwant Mann, who is two-term AAP MP from Sangrur and its Punjab unit president, began his political journey by joining the People’s Party of Punjab (PPP) in 2011, which had been formed by Manpreet Badal, who had broken away from the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD). Manpreet joined the Congress after his party failed to win any seats in the 2012 Assembly polls. Mann contested that election as a PPP candidate from the Lehra constituency but came third.

He joined the AAP in March 2014 and fought the 2014 Lok Sabha elections from Sangrur where he defeated Akali stalwart Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa by more than 2 lakh votes. He retained that seat in the 2019 elections too by a margin of more then one lakh votes and was the only AAP MP to be re-elected from Punjab from among the four party MPs who were elected in the 2014 elections.

Making an emotional speech after being named as the AAP’s CM face by Kejriwal, Mann said there will be hard work in the party’s bid to form the government following which everyone should work towards making Punjab better where no ‘chamchas’ (sycophants) will rule and that the people of Punjab will call the shots.

Thanking everyone for praying for him, Mann said a “double responsibility” has been put on his shoulders as he has been named not only by the party but also by the people of the state. “Earlier when I used to meet people across Punjab they used to laugh after seeing me (referring to his role as a comedian), but now they weep and beg that Punjab be brought back to its pristine state of yore,” he said.

Mann said there are currently many people “sitting in protests atop mobile towers and water tanks” in Punjab, whose various demands, he added, have to be addressed. “The pen of those in authority should work for the welfare of the people of the state. We have been made to see enough dreams about making Punjab into London, Paris or California but all that we want is to make Punjab what it was in the past,” he said.

He also urged the party supporters not to get disappointed by any development amid the polls and after. Quoting Punjabi poet Surjit Patar, Professor Mohan Singh and South African anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela, Mann urged party activists to work for a better Punjab. He recited the verses of Patar: “Je aayi patjhar ta pher ki hai / Tu agli rutt te yaqeen rakhi / Main labb ke layona kalman kiton / Tu phullan jogi zameen rakhi” (It does not matter if autumn comes, you keep hope for the coming spring, I will bring new plants, you keep some land for flowers).

Speaking on the occasion, Mann’s younger sister Manpreet Kaur said, “For a sister it is a day of immense happiness when her brother achieves something. I feel very happy that my brother has been given such a big responsibility by the party and the people of Punjab.”

She went on to say, “We were born in an ordinary household. We have seen happiness and sadness. We know the problems that the common man faces in life. In his 20 year career as comedian my brother had used the problems of common man as the main focus of his satire.”

Manpreet said there was trepidation among family members when Mann decided to enter politics because no one in the family had fought even a panchayat election. “We all know how dirty politics in Punjab has become and we feared that he may have made a mistake. But my brother said people can laugh only when their stomachs are full and he has to enter politics,” she said.

A teacher at a private school in Patiala, Manpreet also cited daily demonstrations that she witnessed outside ex-CM Capt Amarinder Singh’s Moti Mahal palace over the past five years. “If you make my brother the CM of Punjab he will bring back the smiles on your faces,” she said.

A visibly-emotional mother of Mann, Harpal Kaur joined her hands in prayers seeking blessings from Guru Nanak and the people of Punjab so that he could work for the sake of the state. “I am just a mother who gave birth to him. There are lakhs of mothers who keep praying for him. Had his daddy been alive today, he would have been the most happy man,” she said.

Mann got divorced in March 2015 months after being elected to the Lok Sabha for the first time. His ex-wife lives in USA with their two children, a son and a daughter. Mann has said on earlier occasions that he manages to speak to his children sometimes. At the time of his divorce, Mann, in a Facebook post, had stated, “Jo latkeya si chiran ton o hal ho geya / Court ch eh faisla kal ho geya / Ek passay parivar, dujje passay si parivar / Main tan yarro Punjab de wal ho geya.” (A long-pending issue has been resolved. The court decided yesterday. I had to choose between one family and the other. I decided to go with Punjab).

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