From religious events to funerals to Parliament sessions, comic-turned-politician Bhagwant Mann has repeatedly come under the scanner for his behaviour.
New Delhi: Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) chief Arvind Kejriwal sounded the poll bugle in Punjab’s Barnala Sunday, but one of his party’s most prominent faces in the state, Bhagwant Mann, had a different kind of an announcement to make.
Mann, a Member of Parliament from Sangrur, declared his New Years’ resolution — sobriety and commitment to work for the people of Punjab — in 2019.
While Kejriwal, also the Delhi Chief Minister, reportedly called Mann’s promise a “great sacrifice” for the people of Punjab, his deputy Manish Sisodia said the AAP MP swore on his parents that he will “no longer touch liquor”.
बरनाला रैली में @BhagwantMann का एलान – 1 जनवरी से उन्होंने संकल्प लिया है कि वे अब शराब को हाथ नहीं लगाएंगे, उन्होंने मंच पर अपनी माताजी और पंजाब की जनता के सामने वादा किया कि अपना तन मन धन पंजाब की सेवा के लिए लगाएंगे। pic.twitter.com/camx8Ac3Mb
— Manish Sisodia (@msisodia) January 20, 2019
From religious events to funerals to Parliament sessions, the comic-turned-politician has repeatedly come under the scanner for his alleged drunken behaviour that earned him the sobriquet “Pegwant Mann”.
However, Mann has often claimed to only be a social drinker.
As the AAP MP promises better behaviour, ThePrint takes a look at some of the instances that made Mann notorious for his “alcoholism”.
Drunk in Parliament
In Parliament, Mann has repeatedly been accused of “reeking of alcohol”.
It was first mentioned in 2015 by former AAP leader Yogendra Yadav, who alleged that Mann attended Parliament sessions drunk.
“I discovered it first in July 2014, when AAP had a meeting of all its Lok Sabha candidates. Mann was sitting next to me and was smelling of alcohol,” Yadav had said.
“I mentioned it to Arvind Kejriwal and he nodded. Around this time, I heard rumours that Mann was going to the Lok Sabha sessions drunk. One of his fellow MPs confirmed it to me,” he had added.
Less than a year later, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh repeated the same allegation as he flagged Mann’s “addiction”. “Representatives like Bhagwant Mann are maligning the image of Punjab,” he said.
Ten days after Singh’s allegation, suspended AAP leader Harinder Singh Khalsa wrote to Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan that it is “torturous” to sit next to Mann who “reeks of liquor”.
“I am a Sikh who comes to Parliament after performing prayer. It hurts my religious sentiments to smell liquor from the adjoining seat. I feel nauseating,” Khalsa wrote.
In August 2016, three MPs wrote to a nine-member committee set up by Mahajan to look into Mann’s conduct after he was accused of breaching security by shooting a video around Parliament, to allow him to attend house proceedings only after he had been sent to a “rehab/deaddiction centre”.
Also read: Another Punjab AAP MLA resigns, blames Kejriwal’s ‘dictatorial style of functioning’
‘Drunk’ at funeral
In November 2016, Mann allegedly turned up at the funeral of Manmeet Alisher, who was burnt alive in Australia, inebriated. Reports claim that the family asked Mann to leave the premises since he kept misbehaving with them and the journalists present at the venue.
The Punjab Congress issued a statement condemning Mann’s familiar pattern of getting drunk and losing control.
“Stumbling and slurring as he spoke to the media, Mann appeared to be under the influence of alcohol, as he is increasingly prone to be. Media reports on Saturday morning also described in considerable detail Mann’s abhorrent behaviour, and that too at such a solemn occasion,” the statement said.
Drunk in Gurudwara
At the bhog ceremony of the Faridkot firing victims in October 2015, Mann was asked to leave to the stage after Jagtar Singh, former granthi of Dabar Sahib, Amritsar, allegedly found him drunk. The incident caused AAP national embarrassment.
“We are struggling with the case of disrespect to the Guru Granth Sahib and how can a man come drunk on the stage where Guru Granth Sahib Parkash had been done,” Jagtar Singh said.
However, a committee set up by AAP gave Mann a clean chit after assessing video evidence. They reached the conclusion that Mann’s behaviour was normal.
In February 2017, Prime Minister Narendra Modi took a dig at Mann that had fellow parliamentarians reportedly roaring with laughter.
Referring to an old Charvaka poem in a Parliament session, Modi said that instead of asking people to drink “ghee (clarified butter)”, Mann would “ask them to drink something else”.
Furious at the jibe, Mann said that the prime minister “lowered the dignity of the House”. He even threatened to report the PM for breach of privilege if the jibe wasn’t deleted from the record.
Also read: AAP wanted to be party with a difference, but it’s talking about cows, caste like any other
The public collapse
On 28 January 2017, Mann arrived two hours late to speak at a rally in Gol Diggi, Punjab. He began his address by blowing kisses to the people attending the rally.
The public display of affection went on for another five minutes before Mann collapsed in full public view, only to stand back up, mumble a few words and head back the way he came.
Former AAP leader and lawyer Prashant Bhushan took to Twitter to mock the MP’s behaviour.
AAP's star performer Mann comes drunk to his own election meetings! AAP increased liquor Vends in Delhi& they promise Nasha Mukt Punjab! pic.twitter.com/TbjeBXNZEQ
— Prashant Bhushan (@pbhushan1) January 30, 2017