Five states are going to elect their respective governments on Thursday. And in Punjab polls, almost all exit polls are predicting a comfortable victory for AAP. The party had already projected Bhagwant Mann as its Chief Ministerial candidate and therefore Mann seems all set to become the Punjab CM.
So, where does it leave Arvind Kejriwal? He has been the face of the party even before it was founded in 2012. But it seems that Mann’s rise to the top in Punjab could overshadow Kejriwal or even lead to him getting side-tracked within his own party. There is no doubt about the fact that Kejriwal and Mann will be in identical offices. But at the end of the day, Punjab is politically much more significant, when compared to Delhi.
Kejriwal as Delhi CM
As the Chief Minister of Delhi, Kejriwal doesn’t enjoy the powers that the Chief Minister of Punjab enjoys.
Delhi has a special arrangement under the Constitution of India, and therefore the Delhi government doesn’t enjoy the same level of powers as any other state of India. In fact, this is what has actually led to a prolonged tussle between the Delhi government and the Centre.
So, at least technically, Kejriwal is leading a less powerful government as compared to the Punjab government.
Bhagwant Mann as would-be Punjab CM
On the other hand, Punjab is a full-fledged state in terms of administration, like any other state of India. Also, it is a fairly large state with a 117-member Assembly, 13 Lok Sabha seats and 7 Rajya Sabha seats. It is also a border state, which makes it strategically important at an all-India level. Also, given all the political attention that the state witnessed in the recent past due to the farmer protests, Punjab becomes politically crucial.
The point is that as Punjab’s Chief Minister, Mann will enjoy much more power and freedom as compared to Kejriwal’s position in Delhi. At least in Northern India, Mann will have an opportunity of becoming immensely popular amongst the party workers. And this is exactly where power equations could change within the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
Changing equations in the AAP
It is also quite relevant that Bhagwant Mann is someone who enjoys a lot of power and influence within the party’s Punjab unit. This explains why he will become the CM in case of an AAP victory.
In fact, when Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal had apologised to Akali Dal’s Bikram Singh Majithia in 2018, there was a wide expression of disappointment within the Punjab unit of the party. Bhagwant Mann had then resigned as AAP’s Punjab chief and had tweeted, “I’m resigning as a president of AAP Punjab.” Hours later, Aman Arora, a senior party leader in Punjab too had tweeted that he was quitting from the party post “due to painful turn of events”.
Even Sukhpal Singh Khaira, a former AAP leader and then Leader of Opposition in the Punjab assembly, had said, “We’re appalled and stunned.”
So, Bhagwant Mann commands a lot of popularity with state leadership and with all his influence, there is no reason to be surprised if Arvind Kejriwal gets overshadowed. Ultimately, Mann could become the tallest leader in the party and Kejriwal could be the one getting side-tracked. AAP may therefore be headed for a big change if the exit polls ahead of the Punjab Assembly poll results turn out to be accurate.