New Delhi: Days after the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) suspended Dharamvir Gandhi, its MP from Patiala, for anti-party activities, another parliamentarian from Punjab appears to have joined the rebel camp. In a private telephonic conversation with Gandhi, which has found its way to the media, Bhagwant Mann, the MP from Sangur, is heard criticising the party’s central leadership, and raising doubts over the party’s prospects in the Assembly elections in Punjab.
“They (the party leadership) are plotting against us… they have started plotting against everyone,” the voice, purportedly that of Mann, is heard mentioning in the audio conversation. It says AAP leaders in the state won because of their own popularity, not because of the ‘broom’ (the symbol of the party).
Firstpost is in possession of the audio clip, but does not vouch for its authenticity. Repeated calls to Mann went unanswered. When contacted, Gandhi said, “Yes, it’s true. I’ve also come to know about the audio clip. It was a telephonic conversation between Bhagwant Mann and me some six months ago. It’s not a recent one. Mann was apparently unhappy like me on the developments within the party related to Punjab. He expressed his grievances to me. But, one thing I can say with conviction is that the said conversation was not recorded at my end.”
Interestingly, the audio clip surfaced just a day after Mann told AAP’s ‘Punjab Connect Rally’ that growing factionalism would not have am impact on the party, and that AAP will break the Delhi record by registering a clean sweep in Punjab.
“They (AAP leadership) believe that like Delhi, people here, will also vote for the broom and not look at the candidate… In Punjab, personality matters… Your (Gandhi’s) personality worked and so did professor’s (Professor Sadhu Singh — AAP’s lawmaker from Faridkot). I won because of my 20 years of celebrity status,” he claims. To justify his point, he adds: “Just think if that was not the case, why did Sauchi Mann not win. Since (HS) Phoolka was never among the people in Punjab, he also lost. Whydid Himmat Singh Shergil lose? He also had the broom.”
Gandhi, who agrees with Mann throughout the conversation, supported Mann’s arguments saying, “Exactly Ji… Absolutely correct… We have been with the people for so many years.”
Mann further adds that they are winners not only in Punjab, but Delhi as well because wherever they campaigned in the national capital, the candidate won by a huge margin. He says he, along with the other three MPs, should be authorised to make pan-Punjab policies. “Let’s seriously sit and think that we are the winners, and we are winners in Delhi too. Look at the victory margin wherever we campaigned,” he adds.
Adding that the party knows their strength and potential, Mann demands that the party must give them a say in candidate selection for the 2017 Assembly polls in Punjab. “Now we need to have a role in Punjab. Give us the right to have our own team,” he says.
He mentions the name of a few unknown leaders who, he alleges, have been thrust upon the party from outside against their wishes. “Don’t force upon us someone like Manjit and that Doctor (Balbir), Rupinder Kaur in Barnala.. (and ) all those who have contributed to our defeat . All those who were sad about our victory are now on our ship,” says Mann.
Raising serious doubts about the party’s prospects in the Punjab Assembly elections, Mann says that it is not an easy task to win here as AAP’s position is not that strong. “Punjab is not like Delhi where we have just to fight the BJP. There are more players, including the Congress and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD). If our senior leaders think it is a cakewalk in Punjab, they are mistaken,” Mann told Gandhi, who speaks very little in the clip, but agrees with whatever his colleague in the Lok Sabha says.
Mann alleges that few party leaders have plans to distribute tickets to their favourites. Therefore, along with likeminded people in the party should work against such designs. He tells Gandhi, who only says “correct”, “absolutely correct”, “I agree”, “na na”, “exactly”, etc throughout the entire conversation, to hold secret meetings to discuss and devise their own plans for Punjab, which will go to the polls in 2017.
Mann also speaks against some other members such as Sucha Singh Chottepur and Harinder Singh Khalsa. The AAP had recently suspended two of its MPs — Gandhi and Harinder Singh Khalsa (who represents Fatehgarh Sahib) — for anti-party activities. The duo had accused AAP convener and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal of acting like a dictator.
AAP leaders preferred to keep mum on the audio clip, adding that they have not come across any such audio file. They added that they will only react after listening to and verifying it. But AAP Volunteer Action Manch (AVAM), a group of the party’s disgruntled members, was quick to fire a salvo.
“The party has dumped its ideology and has been hijacked by people with vested interest,” AVAM’s Amit Kumar told Firstpost, when asked whether Kejriwal and other leaders are going to take any action against Mann