Punjab Assembly polls: Navjot Singh Sidhu, Bhagwant Mann have comic quotient, but also serious audience

Chandigarh: Call it the comedy quotient or the oratory mettle in their posturing, the chiefs of Punjab Congress party and the Aam Aadmi Party, Navjot Singh Sidhu and Bhagwant Mann, respectively, are the only ones among the key contestants in Punjab having popular comedy shows to their credits and yet, a devoted following.

Mann, 48, now the Aam Aadmi Party’s chief ministerial candidate who is contesting from Dhuri seat, has long been a popular humourist, satirist, poet, and singer since his college days who shot to fame for his TV comedy shows till 2011 when he entered into politics.

Likewise, Sidhu, 58, the Punjab Congress chief and a wannabe chief ministerial candidate from Amritsar (East) seat, is a former India Team cricket batter, who has hogged the limelight for his various TV shows including the popular comedy show of Kapil Sharma, also from Amritsar.

However, both of them have had an enviable political career too; Sidhu, a three-time MP and an MLA from Amritsar (East) seat, is now contesting the seat as party chief, and Mann, 48, second-time MP from Sangrur, is fighting from Dhuri assembly seat as AAP chief ministerial candidate.

Back to them and their sway; most of Mann supporters say he is seriously taken across the state for his simplicity, accessibility, plain-speak, and criticism of the state’s tallest leaders of Shiromani Akali Dal and Congress, something no one dared earlier. He is also known for his work for the rescue and plight of stranded Punjabis abroad with the help of senior BJP leader and former Union external affairs minister late Sushma Swaraj.

Mann’s supporters also scoff at the criticism of his old excessive drinking habits saying that he had left drinking and that drinking was not “a serious crime’’ in Punjab.

On Sidhu, notwithstanding his peculiarity of saying “Khataak’’ and “Thoko Taali’’ at almost all his public addresses, his supporters, on the other hand, say he is known for his work for the Kartarpur corridor (a visa-free crossing over to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in bordering Pakistan, where the founder of Sikhism Guru Nanak had settled). On his nearness to Pakistan leaders, they say that the outcome of the same still was Kartarpur corridor something that touched Sikhs.

The poll observers opine that there has always been a huge number of people – whether or not their supporters – who made it a point to go to their rallies and seriously listen to their addresses. And they also talk about it further, be it Sidhu’s tirade against the state’s most powerful Badals or formerly Congress’ tall leader Capt Amarinder Singh as well as state’s main problems such as drugs, sacrilege or mafias. They also fondly recount how sarcastically Mann was first to take on Badals despite being from a humble background.

However, the popularity of Sidhu or Mann, notwithstanding, only March 10 result would tell how much it would translate into votes in their favour.