Comedian-turned-politician Bhagwant Mann had the last laugh. Notwithstanding disapproval expressed by the Aam Aadmi Party’s NRI supporters, the party’s national convener and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Monday announced the Sangrur MP as party’s Punjab unit “president”.
But for Mann, who had been the controversy’s favourite child in the past, the coveted post came with a rider. Mann has been asked to do away with his drinking habit, for which he has remained in news for all the wrong reasons.
Kejriwal, while appointing Mann as party chief, imposed a condition that he would not drink, and “he will be removed if he does”.
The decision, came after Kejriwal held one-on-one meeting with party leaders since 2 pm, was announced in a combined meeting, and later ratified by the party’s political affairs committee (PAC).
“As many as 20 MlAs, and two MPs besides 50 other leaders were called one by one by Arvind Kejriwal and then the decision was announced by him in the meeting,” an AAP leader told The Pioneer.
AAP supremo claimed that a majority view was in favour of Mann after one-on-one meetings with the MlAs.
Notably, party’s NRI supporters had last week written to Kejriwal against making Mann the chief, terming him greedy and narcissistic. Along with a Jat-Sikh Mann, party’s Sunam MlA Aman Arora, party’s Hindu face, was appointed his co-president — giving the best Hindu-Sikh combination to strike the communal balance.
The AAP, which could manage to secure just 20 seats along with its ally lok Insaaf Party (lIP) headed by Bains Brother of ludhiana, failed to get support from the Hindu voters after the reports of its leaders, especially Kejriwal, warming up with Sikh radicals did the rounds. It has been learnt that similar views were expressed by the some of the top leaders at the party meeting on Monday too.
In another major decision, party picked its Dalit MlA from Jagraon, Sarabjit Kaur Manuke, to elevate as deputy leader of the AAP legislature party. Party’s senior leader and Dakha MlA HS Phoolka is the leader of AAP legislature party, and the leader of opposition in Vidhan Sabha.
Mann replaces Gurpreet Singh Ghuggi, the party’s former State ‘convener’, who is upset for his unceremonious removal. Also a comedian-turned-politician, Ghuggi said he was not happy with the way things have turned out to be.
“If the party wanted to remove me, they should have simply asked me to step down...that would be a better way,” said Ghuggi after attending the meeting.
After ouster of Sucha Singh Chhotepur as Punjab unit convener following corruption charges against him, Ghuggi was handed over the party reigns, to lead the party in 2017 polls. As the party failed to cash in on massive support it was receiving in the run up to polls, question over Ghuggi’s leadership was raised from within.
Projecting himself as ‘president’, party’s Chief Whip in the Punjab Assembly Sukhpal Singh Khaira quit his post “in protest”. His move came notwithstanding Kejriwal’s request to continue.
Khaira, confirming his resignation, refused to divulge the reasons for the same. “I’ve resigned from both the posts of party’s chief whip and spokesman…I would like to work for the party just as a volunteer,” he said, adding that he has informed about the resons for the move to party’s national convener. It has been learnt that Khaira resigned in protest for ignoring him in party’s organisational reshuffle.
In a statement released later in the day, Khaira stated, “To set at rest different kind of rumors doing the round in media, I confirm that I have asked Kejriwal to relieve me from the posts of Chief Whip and the Spokesperson of the party with immediate effect. I requested that these positions be given to leaders who are more deserving than me in the party. I am very happy to serve party as an ordinary volunteer and elected representative of the people.”