Bhagwant Singh Mann. (Twitter)
New Delhi: "Its PunjAAP now." "Punjab mein AAP ka swagat hai." On Thursday, social media was flooded with several new slogans and many interesting memes as the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) lodged a historic win in the state Assembly polls. A relatively new party in the political firmament, AAP decimated all the grand old parties and their prominent leaders in the state to emerge victorious with a thumping majority and give "Ek chance Mann Nu".
The victory in Punjab is an indication that in the coming days AAP will be an important party among the Oppositions against the Bharatiya Janata Party in the Centre.
"Congratulations to Bhagwant Singh Mann on becoming chief minister. Such a majority scares me too. People have placed their trust in us. We want to fulfil their expectations. To everyone watching me on TV, revolution has come to Delhi and now Punjab. Now is the time to bring the revolution across the country," said AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal in his victory speech as he revealed that sitting chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi of the Congress was defeated by a candidate - Labh Singh Ugoke - who works in a mobile repair shop.
The AAP’s victory in Punjab Assembly will now ensure it a few more seats in Rajya Sabha and the hope to make inroads in states like Haryana and Rajasthan. But it still has a long way to go to become a national party as it needs to have a presence in at least four states with minimum 6 per cent votes. AAP leader Raghav Chadha said this is just a matter of time. "The Punjab elections show that AAP has emerged as a national political force. It took BJP 10 years to form their first government in a state. But AAP is not even 10 years old and here we have formed government in two states," he said.
The Punjab results show people were frustrated with the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and fissure-ridden Congress and were looking for alternatives. An indication of this was visible when the majority of the voters said they had voted for "change" and "good governance" as the AAP’s campaign touched the aspirations of common man. The party that made its second attempt to enter Punjab politics had a better poll strategy and campaign in place this time as it carefully chose issues that are close to people’s heart.
"I don’t understand maths. I know only one thing that I want to see the country progressing. In seven years we have shown that schools in the country can be made better, poverty can be eliminated, hospitals can be improved, 24x7 electricity can be provided and the roads can be best," Mr Kejriwal had said during campaigns.
Mr Kejriwal himself handled the campaign of Punjab in the old style of distributing pamphlets, connecting with voters directly through door-to-door campaigns or video conferencing and choosing the chief minister face. "Ek mauka Mann nu" he said as he sought votes for Bhagwant Mann, the comedian who was the face of the party in the state.
Mr Kerjiwal had faced a bitter campaign and personal attacks and was accused by Opposition leaders of fraternising with Khalistani secessionists. "People of this nation have said Kejriwal is not a terrorist. He is a true patriot," Mr Kejriwal said in his victory speech.
The party that started with the anti-corruption movement eight years ago to grab national attention, has made its mark globally for good governance in the national capital, New Delhi, where it has been holding fort for the last three Assembly polls. Its reforms in the education and health sector have been much appreciated, so much so that several people in Delhi have shifted their children from private schools to Delhi government-run schools.
The AAP’s Mohalla Clinic is another hit among urban poor and lower middle class who get access to healthcare either free or at an affordable cost. The party has also cut down heavily on the monthly electricity bills of households. Besides, AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal and his deputy Manish Sisodia’s clean image and the duo’s handling of Covid-19 in the city went in their favour.
"We asked the people of Punjab to sweep with the broom (AAP's election symbol), they started the vacuum cleaner instead. This shows AAP is the natural and national replacement of the Congress. The people of Punjab have seen the Kejriwal model of governance and they want to try it out. For five decades, those who have kept the people of Punjab without the amenities they deserve and those who thought they would rule forever have now been thrown out. The people decided to teach them a lesson," said Mr Chadha, AAP’s main man behind the Punjab campaign.