Bhagwant Mann's Steady Hold In Punjab Amid Turmoil In AAP

Diksha Yadav

Apr 06, 2024, 11:07 AM | Updated 04:29 PM IST

Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann (left) and Arvind Kejriwal (right)
Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann (left) and Arvind Kejriwal (right)

This is the edited transcript from Diksha Yadav's podcast What This Means with Rohit Pathania, focusing on Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Punjab politics. (Hear it all on Spotify and the Swarajya app.)

Where is Raghav Chadha? Why has he not shown up yet amid so much chaos?

A. So, Raghav Chadha is sitting in London quietly, and he is far away from the campaigning of AAP, curiously, in the state of Punjab, despite being a Rajya Sabha MP from the state. A lot of accusations are going on about him meeting Preet Gill, sort of like pairing with the Khalistani lobby.

If you remember, very recently, there was a video that was put out by Gurpatwant Singh Pannu in which he claimed that the AAP had received 12 million dollars in funding for the Punjab elections over the past few years.

And, of course, UK (the United Kingdom) is also a major hub for Khalistani activities, especially in the places where Preet Gill stands from, Birmingham or South Hall. So, it is not a surprise to see the kind of allegations that are arising against Raghav Chadha.

B. Another reason is that Raghav Chadha is probably hedging his bets against what's going on.

And, despite all the efforts of the AAP to put forward Mrs Sunita Kejriwal in a big way, there are no clear frontrunners (as Kejriwal's successor in Delhi government and AAP). Such has been the case with the AAP.

Raghav Chadha will definitely come under the scanner if the allegations filed on alleged corruption in the Delhi Jal Board come up because he was the man who was governing the Board as the eyes and ears of Arvind Kejriwal.

So, it might also be the case that he wants to avoid any scrutiny of that and is probably sitting out and cooling his heels.

Bhagwant Mann so far stands untouched.

After Mr Kejriwal has gone to jail, the biggest leader of the AAP, who is doing very well and standing tall, is Bhagwant Mann.

Mann so far stands untouched. Interestingly, though, there has been a raid by the ED (Enforcement Directorate) on one of the IAS officers who was related to the excise policy in Punjab, which was said to be a copy of the Delhi excise policy that had caused so much outrage.

The Congress and the Akali Dal had actually been complaining big time with the Lok Ayukta also in the state, about the probable scam being developed in the name of the revised excise policy in Punjab.

So, if more developments happen on that front, we are probably in for a very rough ride for the AAP overall.

And the collapse of the party would also probably be just as swift as its meteoric rise in the past couple of years.

The AAP chief, Arvind Kejriwal, did everything to win the assembly elections in Punjab. So, why has there been no protest in Punjab as yet after Kejriwal's arrest?

And that's the question everybody is asking right now. Except for homilies and marches in Delhi, you haven't seen anything concrete being done in Punjab yet, right?

And it has to be admitted that Bhagwant Mann has an iron grip on the party unit in the state. Despite some symbolic gestures, they have consciously avoided even referring to Mr Kejriwal's name anywhere except for one or two tweets or one or two speeches.

If you recall, in fact, Bhagwant Mann in the recent Vidhan Sabha session had been having a very vocal argument with Pratap Singh Bajwa about him (Mann) being a man of humble origins while Mr Bajwa was wearing shawls worth lakhs of rupees and having done nothing for the people over the years, panning the leaders of the opposition in a big way.

So, for Mann to have any dent on his image by associating with the corrupt right now would probably harm him as an emerging leader in the long run.

Bhagwant Mann's growing popularity in Punjab

See, one thing that's coming up very clearly is that Bhagwant Mann is practically gaining a lot of personal popularity in the state and definitely, despite his rather colourful life, has managed to create the AAP as a pole in the state.

You look at people who observe Punjab politics, one of the things that's continually coming up is that the BJP is essentially not fighting to replace AAP; it is basically becoming in a position where it might end up replacing Congress and a section of the Akali Dal vote share essentially.

So, in that scenario, AAP clearly has become the one big chunk in the state, which, even if it loses the Vidhan Sabha tomorrow, will definitely have a respectable number of seats in the assembly anytime.

There has been talk of this in the past as well, so I would not be surprised if tomorrow the AAP collapses for all the constitutional reasons that are coming up and the corruption cases that are coming up, and then Bhagwant Mann creates his own regional outfit.

The AAP gets reduced to something like a Punjab Aadmi Party.

Is it a good or bad idea if Mann breaks away from AAP?

I think it's not a bad idea if he breaks away. For him, it's a good thing because he would have basically put the baggage of Arvind Kejriwal off his back.

See, AAP in Punjab is, for all practical purposes, a regional unit. It is not even a party that behaves in a national manner in the state. All its issues, all its ideas, everything is focused on Punjab. I would not be surprised if the party breaks away and creates a separate unit.

Of course, the big concern would be whether Bhagwant Mann would then be in a position to deal (with everything) single-handedly and if he would be able to secure a majority in the assembly on his own because there was a Kejriwal factor that did help the AAP back in the day to secure the overwhelming majority that it did.

Interesting times ahead. I, for one, do feel that it might happen, but when exactly is something that I cannot necessarily predict. My hunch is that this might happen in a year's time from now, depending on how the case against Arvind Kejriwal proceeds.

P.S. We also discuss about Ravneet Singh Bittu, Sushil Kumar Rinku, Sheetal Angural the new entrants in Punjab BJP ahead of the 2024 general election. Listen to the full episode here:🎙️ 𝟮𝟬𝟮𝟰 𝗣𝘂𝗻𝗷𝗮𝗯 — 𝗔𝗔𝗣 𝗞𝗮 𝗞𝘆𝗮 𝗛𝗼𝗴𝗮?

Diksha Yadav is a senior sub editor at Swarajya.

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