Bhagwant Mann’s friend in AAP’s Punjab LS list, ‘outsider’ party learns insider ways

webnexttech | Bhagwant Mann’s friend in AAP’s Punjab LS list, ‘outsider’ party learns insider ways

An hour to go for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) announcing names of its Punjab candidates for the coming Lok Sabha elections, Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann told noted Punjabi actor, comedian and singer Karamjit Anmol that the party wanted him to contest from the Faridkot reserved seat. Anmol, a close friend of Mann who hails from Gandua village of Sangrur district, admits his first choice was Sangrur. “But the CM told me that an artist should be ready to represent the whole of Punjab. So I agreed to contest from Faridkot,” Anmol told mediapersons. Facing his first electoral contest, Anmol has hit the ground running, holding meetings with AAP workers and all its MLAs representing Assembly segments under the Faridkot Lok Sabha seat on Saturday, and touring the constituency Sunday, including the Tilla Baba Farid shrine. Kotkapura MLA and Assembly Speaker Kultar Singh Sandhwan, whose constituency also falls under Faridkot, said, “We are happy the party has chosen Anmol.” However, not many are as pleased, at the AAP’s choices, with the party that came to power representing itself the “outsider” making choices quite like its counterparts in its Lok Sabha list. The choice of Anmol is among the most striking, with Mann’s friend making his political debut straight with a Lok Sabha ticket. The nephew of legendary folk singer Kuldeep Manak, Anmol (52) began life as an entertainer, doing comedy with Mann, before moving on to acting. He has acted in popular Punjabi-language hits like Carry on Jatta 2, Ardaas and Sardar Sahib, and also appeared in the Bollywood film Dev D. Hours before the announcement of his ticket, Anmol had been promoting his new song Mirza on his social media handles. On Friday, he updated these posts by thanking the AAP for making him a part of its ‘Mission Rangla Punjab (Mission Prosperous Punjab)’. The post had his picture in a yellow turban, next to pictures of CM Mann and AAP supremo Arvind Kejriwal. Anmol, rarely seen in a turban, also posted solo pictures in a dark pink turban. A soft-spoken Anmol is aware of the objections to his candidature by many AAP workers, who are unhappy the party did not choose from among their ranks despite their work on the ground since 2014. “Though I had never thought of joining politics, but people in my village always used to tell me that one day, I would. I want to understand the burning issues of the area and highlight them in Parliament,” Anmol says, adding that he believes in doing positive politics “rather than continuously criticising others”. Anmol also wants to continue his acting career, “as it is my bread and butter”. “I will try to strike a balance,” he adds. “You can call me kalakar (artiste) or leader. Now, I’m both.” Faridkot is known a prestigious seat, having elected Akali Dal titan and former CM Parkash Singh Badal as its first MP in 1977. His son Sukhbir Singh Badal’s political journey also started from this seat, when he became its MP in 1996. However, in 1999, Sukhbir had suffered a shock defeat from the seat, to the Congress. In 2004, Sukhbir had wrested Faridkot back. After the seat was designated reserved in 2009, the Akali Dal’s Paramjit Kaur Gulshan won from here. In 2014, when the AAP made its debut in Punjab, Gulshan lost to an AAP first-timer by over 1.2 lakh votes. In 2019, the Congress’s Mohammed Sadique won Faridkot, with the AAP candidate finishing third. Sadique is also a popular Punjabi folk artist, and remains a top contender for the Congress ticket from Faridkot, apart from Charanjit Singh Channi (Punjab’s first-ever Dalit CM). However, the AAP is confident of winning back Faridkot as, of the nine Assembly segments under the Lok Sabha constituency, only Gidderbaha had not been won by the party in the 2022 Assembly elections. Punjab Congress president Amarinder Singh Raja Warring had won from Gidderbaha. With no other party declaring their candidates for Faridkot yet, Anmol also believes he has the first mover’s advantage. AAP pick of candidates The first off the blocks in announcing candidates for the Lok Sabha, the party that once attacked other parties for not being loyal to any ideology, seems to have realised the value of keeping a little flexibility. Unlike 2022, when the party fielded many new faces, for example, and swept the polls, with voters rewarding its promise of change, its Lok Sabha list has several known names, including as many as five sitting ministers – Kuldeep Singh Dhaliwal (Amritsar); Laljit Singh Bhullar (Khadoor Sahib); Balbir Sidhu (Patiala); Gurmeet Singh Khudian (Bathinda); Gurmeet Singh Meet Hayer (Sangrur). The fact that the AAP has had to fall back on its known winners is seen as proof that, quite like other parties, it has not cultivated many leaders – falling back for all practical purposes on the duo of CM Mann and Kejriwal. Of those fielded, only Sidhu and Meet Hayer can be called true blue AAP products, with Dhaliwal, Bhullar and Khudian starting their political careers with the Congress or Akali Dal. Two other candidates who have got tickets, Sushil Kumar Rinku (Jalandhar) and Gurpreet Singh G P (Fatehpur Sahib), also joined the party from the Congress. Apart from Anmol from Faridkot, the reserved seat of Fatehpur Sahib has gone to Congress import Gurpreet Singh, while Hoshiarpur is expected to go to Congress sitting MLA Raj Kumar Chhabewal, who joined the AAP on Friday. Many AAP leaders point to the incongruity of the party, that with much fanfare celebrated B R Ambedkar and Bhagat Singh as its main icons after coming to power, not picking Dalit candidates from own ranks. An AAP MLA argues that the party had to put winnability first. “The party is evolving. Sometimes circumstances also have to be considered. The country is moving towards dictatorship and we need to ensure that we put our best foot forward in every seat. Right now the only method to save democracy is by winning the maximum seats.” Scoffing at the argument, former Akali Dal MLA Virsa Singh Valtoha says the AAP has “always been a fraud”. “It is not the first time that they have done opposite to what they preach. Kejriwal has been the face of the party from the very first day. There is no one after him.”

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