Chandigarh: Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) president and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal Thursday said MP Bhagwant Mann was the “tallest leader of the party” and his choice for the chief ministerial candidate in the upcoming assembly polls in Punjab.
However, he also announced a phone number through which the people of Punjab could convey to the AAP their preferred CM face from the party.
Addressing a press conference in Chandigarh early Thursday, Kejriwal, who was accompanied by state AAP chief Mann and the party’s Punjab in-charge Raghav Chadha, said, “Mann is very dear to us. He is my younger brother. He is the tallest leader of the party. And during a closed-door meeting, I suggested that he should be named as the CM face.”
“Mann said that we should ask the people of Punjab first and this tradition of declaring chief ministerial candidates behind closed doors should end,” he added.
The Delhi CM said the public could send a voice message, SMS or WhatsApp message to the party stating their choice of CM candidate. He announced a phone number for the same, which will be operational till 5 pm on 17 January.
“This is probably the first time in the electoral history of India since 1947 that a party is going to the people and asking them who will be their CM face,” said Kejriwal.
When mediapersons asked if the party was resorting to this move because he too wanted to throw his hat in the ring, the Delhi CM said: “I know you all will think like this. But I am not in this race at all, I am out of this competition.”
Asked what the party’s decision would be if the public chooses someone other than Mann as chief ministerial candidate, Kejriwal said that “Mann himself would bring that person into the forefront”.
To a question on what the party’s stand would be if the people voted for a person who is not from the AAP but from another party, Kejriwal responded: “Have some faith in the people of Punjab, wait till 17 January.”
The AAP chief claimed that most of the surveys conducted by various TV channels were showing that his party is likely to emerge as the single largest in the state. “So, one thing is clear, that we are going to form the government in Punjab and our CM face will be Punjab’s next CM,” he added.
Assembly elections in Punjab will be held in a single phase on 14 February.
People must feel they took part in this process as well: Mann
Mann said that all political parties “imposed” chief ministerial faces on the people and never asked them who they wanted.
“I told CM saab (Kejriwal) that we are a party born out of the people and if we have to take a decision, we must go back to them. The people of Punjab must feel that they have participated in this process as well,” he added. “Like CM saab said, they will be participating in this process of not just choosing the CM face of AAP, but the CM of Punjab.”
Asked about protests within the AAP following the declaration of certain candidates for assembly polls, and allegations of tickets having been distributed for money by some party leaders, Kejriwal said: “Allegations without proof have no value. I have already said that if they are able to give me any proof, I will take strict action.”
(Edited by Gitanjali Das)