Punjab Polls: From Comedian To CM, 'Jugnu' Bhagwant Mann Is Having The Last Laugh

Decades after he began a career as a comic, Bhagwant Mann, 48, is having the last laugh—poised to be crowned as the next chief minister of Punjab on the back of a sweep by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

Bhagwant Maan with Arvind Kejriwal

One of Bhagwant Mann’s most popular acts as a stand-up comedian was his rib-tickling satire on politics and politicians—one-liners delivered with a deadpan expression that evoked peals of laughter in packed auditoriums.

Decades after he began a career as a comic, Mann, 48, is having the last laugh—poised to be crowned as the next chief minister of Punjab on the back of a sweep by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

The rise of Mann—known by the nickname ‘Jugnu’ (firefly)—caps an extraordinary journey of a man who had to battle career-threatening alcohol addiction and an earlier tiff with AAP convener Arvind Kejriwal which saw him resign as the party’s state chief in 2018.

But Mann’s return to the centre stage of Punjab’s politics has turned out to be even better than his pithy comebacks as a comic.

Turbulent past

Mann, separated from his wife Inderpreet Kaur since 2015, once admitted that he could not give much time to his family due to his political commitments. Kaur and their two children now live in Canada.

Mann has also been notorious for his alcohol abuse and bestowed with the moniker, ‘Pegwant Mann’, a pun on the word peg. He has been accused of attending Parliament sessions reeking of alcohol by fellow parliamentarians in Lok Sabha.

In his election rallies, incumbent chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi repeatedly attacked Mann over his addiction. In fact, Mann swore in public not to touch alcohol after he was repeatedly caught in an inebriated state on camera in recent years.

Before joining AAP, Mann was a member of a lesser-known political party, the People’s Party of Punjab. He had unsuccessfully contested elections from Lehra assembly constituency in 2012. This time he contested from the Dhuri assembly constituency.

He was elected to the Lok Sabha twice in 2014 and 2019 from Sangrur.

Sharp wit

Mann was declared the AAP’s Punjab CM candidate by Kejriwal after sensing the regional sentiment. He was selected after a televote in which people were asked by the party to phone-in and tell their choice for the post ahead of the assembly polls.

In the past, Mann has competed with the famous comedian Kapil Sharma in a popular television comedy contest, The Great Indian Laughter Challenge. He has also acted in at least 12 Punjabi movies.

Even inside Parliament, he is known to have made the most of his oratory skills to attack the Narendra Modi government and the ruling BJP on different issues. In keeping with his wit and sense of humour, Mann caught the national attention in 2014 during a parliamentary speech wherein he recited a poem, Sarkar ji achche din kab aane waale hain (Dear government, when will the promised good days arrive). It was a satire on the BJP’s poll promise of achche din (better days).

In 2015, Prime Minister Modi had offered a glass of water to the AAP MP as he gasped for breath and felt uneasy while registering his protest inside parliament against CBI raids on Delhi chief minister’s secretariat.

A well-established name in the artistic circles of Punjab, the comedy king enjoys the support of many prominent artists. Noted singer Babbu Maan, who is a youth icon and a bitter critic of all the political parties,  campaigned for him during this election to ensure their friend's electoral victory.