Meet Bhagwant Singh Mann, 48, a former comedian and soon to be Chief Minister of Punjab. The party declared him the CM face on January 19, barely a month before the elections after a phone-in poll which it claimed received 2.15 million responses with over 93 percent voting for Mann.
The man who has covered the momentous journey from being a political novice to the CM face of Aam Aadmi Party Party in less than 11 years comes with a fair share of controversies too. Mann is a college dropout and a die-hard follower of Bhagat Singh. He is known by two traits: the trademark basanti turban and a liquor addiction. In fact, stories abound over an inebriated Mann turning up at the funeral of Manmeet Alisher, who was burnt alive in Australia. “He was asked to leave as he kept misbehaving with people at the event,” shared an old associate. Likewise, old timers are familiar with the episode of a drunk Mann at a 2015 bhog ceremony of former granthi of Dabar Sahib in Amritsar. “At that time, he was a member of AAP and brought much shame to the party,” he added.
In 2017, even Prime Minister Narendra Modi took a dig at Mann that had fellow parliamentarians reportedly roaring with laughter. Referring to an old Charvaka poem at a Parliament session, Modi said that instead of asking people to drink “ghee,” Mann would “ask them to drink something else.”
However, Mann today stands a victorious man having defeated veteran politicians. The two-time parliamentarian from Sangrur, fought this Assembly election from Dhuri. Born into the family of a schoolteacher at Satoj village in Sangrur, Mann had his first brush with fame at 18 when he released his maiden audio cassette while in B.Com second year at Shaheed Udham Singh Government College, Sunam. A master of social and political satire, he was soon the undisputed king of comedy in the state with long-running television shows such as Jugnu Mast Mast.
Bhagwant Mann is the face of stand-up comedy in the late-2000s with his side-splitting dos in the “The Great Indian Laughter Challenge.”
His career in comedy was at its peak when he quit it to join People’s Party of Punjab, an experiment in clean politics by Manpreet Singh Badal, a nephew of Akali patriarch and five-time chief minister Parkash S Badal, in 2011. But his first jab at elections in the 2012 Assembly polls from Lehragagga, a pocket borough of former chief minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, proved to be a non-starter. When Badal merged his party with Congress before the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, Mann refused to go along, deciding instead to accept the invitation of AAP national convener Arvind Kejriwal. The rest, as they say, is history. Mann won the Sangrur LS seat by a record margin of over 2 lakh votes, slaying veteran Akali leader SS Dhindsa.
Today, he has won his first Assembly poll from Dhuri n Sangrur by 58,206 votes. The stand-up comic will be the next chief minister of Punjab.
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