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Punjab polls: Bhagwant Mann asks people to vote for AAP, many in Dhuri call for change

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Dhuri (Punjab), Feb 13: At Benra village in Punjab's Dhuri, as a group of residents eagerly awaits AAP's chief ministerial face Bhagwant Mann to stop by on his campaign trail, a budding singer sings for them, asking for votes for the party to “save” the state.

Bhagwant Mann

Outside the Benra Cooperative Agricultural Service Society office in the village, elderly male villagers sitting on a cemented floor and women, some along with kids, on a cotton carpet laid on the road listen to a local AAP leader slamming political rivals for "looting" the state over the last several years.

"Oh Jatta, vote (Bhagwant) Mann nu pa deen, Je Punjab bachauna hai (farmer, vote for Bhagwant Mann if Punjab is to be saved)," the 19-year-old singer goes on, seeking to highlight corruption, rising debt and the drug menace in the state.

The wait ends as Mann's cavalcade rolls down the road surrounded by wheat and mustard fields and enters the village. Benra was the first village Mann visited on his campaign trail on Saturday.

Standing out of the sunroof of his car, Mann greeted the local people with "Bole So Nihal Sat Sri Akal" as many held out mobile phones to record videos.

"Vote for 'Jharoo' (broom, the AAP's poll symbol) on February 20. Our button is in third place (on the EVM) but we will come first (victorious in elections)," Mann told the gathering on a mike.

After his brief address, the cavalcade leaves for another village. At the next stop on the trail, Mann and his friend and Punjabi movie actor Karamjit Anmol sang a famous song of poet Sant Ram Udasi, and said, "A new sun will rise in Punjab on March 10 (counting day).” Mann urged the villagers to defeat rival political parties and help the AAP form the government in the state. He was also joined by Punjabi actor Dev Kharoud. Bhagwant Mann, the comedian-turned-politician, is contesting the Punjab assembly polls from the Dhuri seat, one of the assembly constituencies of Sangrur district.

Mann is a two-time MP from the Sangrur parliamentary constituency. After the Aam Aadmi Party announced Mann as its chief minister candidate, the Dhuri assembly seat has shot into limelight.

As Mann exudes confidence that his party will form the next government in the state, many residents of Dhuri say they want to give an opportunity to the AAP. People in Dhuri, especially in the villages, suggest a mood for a change in the state, seemingly giving an edge to the AAP over its rivals. Some of them, not even averse to shedding their old political affiliations, suggested they wanted to vote for the AAP this time.

Bhagwant Singh, a 55-year-old tea seller near a fuel pump along Dhuri road, wants to see a change in the February 20 state assembly polls. “We have seen two traditional parties for the last 70 years. We are fed up with them. Now we want to see a change this time,” he said.

Interestingly, Singh's family has been supporting a traditional political party for the last several years. He reasoned, “Bhagwant Mann has a clean image. Moreover, the AAP is promising to improve health services and education which is in the doldrums now.”

A resident of Dhura village, Harvinder, who is into shuttering business, echoes similar sentiments, “Two parties have been ruling the state for so many years. But now people like to see the AAP in the saddle.” “They have shown the Delhi model where they improved the condition of health and education in the national capital,” he added.

An 80-year-old Balbir Singh from Fatehgarh Ganduan village in Sunam tehsil of Sangrur is also supporting the AAP. “Our vote is with 'jharoo' only,” he said, claiming other political parties did nothing for the people. Twenty-year-old Sukhwinder, a mason, lauded Mann for his help in getting some rooms constructed and benches arranged for students of a government school in Benra village.

“Our children are now studying in that school,” he said, adding that 20-25 labourers who work with him are likely to vote for the AAP as well. A shopkeeper in Dhuri town said the AAP has an edge over other rival political parties in the Dhuri assembly seat. However, other traders in Dhuri were not so forthcoming. One shopkeeper flatly refused to talk about the polls.

The Aam Aadmi Party's stronghold in Malwa region can also be gauged from the fact that it had won 18 seats from here out of the total 20 in the 2017 assembly polls. The Malwa region, comprising several districts including Sangrur, Barnala, Bathinda, Ludhiana, Moga, and Ferozepur, account for 69 seats of the total 117 assembly segments in the state.

Seeking to form the next government in Punjab, the AAP has made several promises, including 300 units of free electricity per month, round-the-clock electricity, Rs 1,000 per month for women, improving the condition of health and education, opening 16,000 mohalla clinics, corruption-free governance and controlling drug-menace among others.

The Congress has fielded its sitting legislator Dalvir Singh Goldy from the seat, while the Shiromani Akali Dal's candidate is Parkash Chand Garg. Dhuri, being a railway junction, is primarily a rural segment, comprising 74 villages, and the assembly constituency is located in Sangrur district.

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