Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)’s Bhagwant Mann, who on Thursday won the Dhuri seat with a margin of 58,206 votes, is set to become Punjab’s next chief minister.
AAP is heading to a landslide win in the 117-member legislative Assembly by leading at over 90 seats.
In his first public address in his home town Sangrur after winning the seat and seeing the meteoric rise of the party, Mann promised to fix unemployment as his first task in office.
“No government office in the state will have the photo of the Punjab CM, but will carry a portrait of B.R. Ambedkar.”
Mann said he will take oath as the Chief Minister in Bhagat Singh’s ancestral village Khatkar Kalan and not in Raj Bhawan.
“We will ensure that the youth do not have to go abroad… Within a month, you will observe changes,” he added.
Taking a dig at the opposition leaders, he said, “The elder Badal has lost…Captain (Amarinder Singh) Sahab has also lost. Majithia is also losing. Channi has also lost from both seats.”
The AAP is leading in 91 of 117 seats in the Punjab Assembly, as per the Election Commission of India (ECI) website at 1.10 p.m. The Congress was leading in 17 seats so far.
For the AAP that was banking on ‘Hun ek mauka Kejriwal nu (now one chance to Kejriwal)’ — arguably one of the biggest advertisement blitz campaigns — two-time MP, Mann, took the lead as the chief minister’s face.
In the 2017 Assembly elections, the AAP had made inroads among Jat Sikhs by emerging as the second largest party with 20 seats, 18 of them in the Malwa region. However, it failed to make a mark in Majha and Doaba regions.
Mann held his fort despite Modi wave across the country in 2019 by retaining the Sangrur Lok Sabha seat for the second time in a row.
“The fight is not to save some political families but to save Punjab, the farmers, the agriculture, the industry and the youth. Owing to lack of employment and better education infrastructure, our youth is moving abroad,” was the common talk of Mann in his folksy style in his elections campaigns.
Formerly a popular comedian-actor, Mann, known for his trademark ‘basanti’ turban, a colour associated with Shaheed Bhagat Singh, has had his fair share of controversies in recent years, especially linked to his drinking habit.
In these polls, AAP’s vote share is estimated to be close to 42.45 per cent compared to 22.9 per cent of the Congress and 17.9 per cent of the SAD.
The meteoric rise of AAP in the 2014 Parliamentary polls and then in the 2017 Assembly elections in Punjab followed by its nosedive owing to ‘mass exodus’ of its legislators proved a litmus test for the party in the 2022 Assembly polls in the state.
Political observers say AAP was seen as the alternative to the traditional parties that had dominated Punjab’s electoral space for decades.
Learning a harsh lesson from its mistake during the 2017 Assembly polls of not declaring a chief ministerial candidate, this time AAP’s CM face Bhagwant Mann was locked in a multi-cornered contest with Congress’ ‘Aam Aadmi’ Charanjit Singh Channi, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) chief Sukhbir Badal, Capt Amarinder Singh, whose new party Punjab Lok Congress is in alliance with the BJP and the Samyukt Samaj Morcha, the fledgling coalition of farm unions.
Channi, Sukhbir Badal and Captain Amarinder Singh faced humiliating defeat from their respective seats.
In 2017, AAP sought vote in the name of Arvind Kejriwal, and despite him being tagged an outsider, it managed to win 20 seats in the 117-member Punjab Assembly, emerging as the principal opposition party, pushing SAD to the number three position.