AAP national convenor Arvind Kejriwal asked people on Thursday who should be the party’s chief ministerial face in the February 14 Punjab Assembly polls, even as he stated that his own preference for the post is Bhagwant Mann.
Kejriwal, however, ruled himself out of the race as the AAP launched its ”Janta Chunegi Apna CM” drive and said the name of the candidate for the top post will be announced after getting the feedback of people.
In the presence of Mann, who is the AAP’s Punjab unit chief and the MP from Sangrur, and senior party leader Raghav Chadha, the Delhi chief minister launched a mobile number — 7074870748 — on which people can give their opinion till 5 pm on January 17 by recording their voice and sending text or WhatsApp messages as to who should be the party’s chief ministerial candidate.
”No, Arvind Kejriwal is not in this. Let me clarify, I am not in it,” Kejriwal said, ruling himself out as the party’s chief ministerial face in Punjab.
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In June Last year, he had announced that the Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) chief ministerial candidate in Punjab will be from the Sikh community.
Kejriwal said though Mann is his choice for the top post, the latter has insisted that the people of Punjab should take the decision and it should not be imposed on them.
”Bhagwant Mann is my younger brother. He is a tall leader of the AAP. I had said he should be made the chief minister, but he said people should be asked first. He said the practice of deciding the name of the chief ministerial candidate in a closed-door meeting should be stopped,” he told reporters here.
Mann said when he was told that his name will be declared as the party’s chief ministerial face, he told Kejriwal that the people should be asked first as regards whom among the party leaders would they wish to see as the chief minister.
”I am a loyal soldier of the party. I will perform any duty given to me. If I am asked to paste posters on walls or wave the party symbol at some chowk, I will happily do that. For me, Punjab is important…. Kejriwal has reposed a lot of trust in me,” he added.
Kejriwal said this is probably the first time in independent India that a political party is asking the voters who should be its chief ministerial face.
”My personal choice is not important. The name chosen by the people of Punjab will be announced as the party’s chief ministerial candidate,” he added.
Asked if West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee could mediate for a pre-poll alliance between the AAP and a farmers’ front that is contesting the election, Kejriwal said, ”For us, Punjab is important. For the progress of Punjab, all forces should join hands.” He referred to the pre-poll surveys conducted by some ”television channels and other media outlets”, which have predicted that the AAP will get close to 60 seats in the 117-member Punjab Assembly and emerge as the single-largest party in the state.
The Delhi chief minister claimed that while it is clear that the AAP will form the next government in Punjab, the party is eyeing at least 80 Assembly seats, and appealed to ”all our volunteers” as well as the voters ”to give one final push” to achieve the target.
Asked about the names of the other leaders who are in the race for the top post besides Mann, he said let the people choose the candidate of their choice.
Replying to another question on whether there is a consensus on Mann’s name in the party and whether it is seeking public opinion so as to put its stamp of approval on the Sangrur MP as its chief ministerial face, Kejriwal said the party will abide by the verdict of the people.
”We want to give a good candidate, who is liked by the people. Punjab and the country are dear to us. For Punjab’s progress, if Punjabis say this candidate should be the chief ministerial face, he will be our chief ministerial face. We have placed everything before the public and have left the decision on three crore Punjabis,” he added.
Asked about a notice issued by the Election Commission (EC) to his party for alleged violations of its guidelines during door-to-door campaigning at Kharar a day earlier, Kejriwal said a reply has been given to the poll panel.
Replying to another question on an alleged security breach during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Punjab, he said if the AAP forms the government in the state, the prime minister as well as the people of the state will be safe.