Chandigarh, August 29: The Aam Aadmi Party that seemed to have become the hope of the aam aadmi in Punjab is heading towards a vertical split following the suspension of its state convener Sucha Singh Chhotepur. His supporters including six of the 12 zonal coordinatorson Monday evening served ultimatum on party’s national convener and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to reinstate Chhotepur bySeptember 1 or face the consequences.
It is not just his reinstatement that has been demanded. His supporters want entire team of 54 persons brought to the state from outside including state incharge Sanjay Singh and national organising secretary Durgesh Pathak to be withdrawn immediately.
Anandpur Sahib zonal incharge J S Dhaliwal announced in the presence of five other coordinators that these ‘outsiders’ henceforth would not be allowed to function in Punjab and shown black flags wherever they go. This is the first action plan that has been announced.
Other zonal coordinators present at Chhotepur’s residence included Gurinder Singh Bajwa (Amritsar), Narinder Pal Bhagta Bhai (Bathinda), Amandeep Singh Gill (Gurdaspur) and H S Cheema (Jalandhar). They have the support of Iqbal Singh Bhagowalia (Khadoor Sahib).
The next course of action would be announced after September 1.
It is not just the reinstatement of Chhotepur as the state convener that has been demanded. He would not be toothless convener as earlier. They want convener with total powers who would nominate his own state committee. Presently, the party has no organizational structure.
The state committee headed by Chhotepur would have the powers to review the two lists of candidates released so far. The rest of the candidates would be selected by this committee from among the volunteers who have toiled for the party and not the paratroopers.
Sources maintain that Chhotepur would start tour of the state within a day or two to mobilise people. It may be mentioned that he was under pressure from his supporters to announce some concrete decision the day he addressed a press conference as news was selectively leaked about the sting operation against him and his likely removal. This sting operation was about his accepting Rs 2 lakh from a supporter.
AAP leadership might have expected that Chhotepur might go on defensive after the leak but what happened was to the contrary. He revealed that he had contributed more than Rs 20 lakh to the party during Delhi Assembly elections but none asked him about the source. He gives out details of the expenditure by the state unit. The party is without a treasurer. He has hit back alleging that both Sanjay Singh and Pathak had been accepting contributions to the party fund and the money was unaccounted. He has already offered himself for a probe by the CBI about his property during his entire political career spanning about 40 years.
It may be mentioned that a statement purported to have been signed by 21 senior leaders was released by the party seeking sack of Chhotepur which precipitated the situation. This is the modus operandi that fifth time Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal would resort to during every organizational crisis in the Akali Dal, especially in the fight against party stalwart Gurcharan Singh Tohra.
The only leader loyal to Kejriwal who has mass following is Sangrur MP Bhagwant Mann.
Although the removal of Chhotepur was on the anvil for the last about four months, what precipitated the crisis was the blunders committed during the release of party’s youth manifesto and that too in the Panthic domain. Chhotepur refused to own up the goof up. Infuriated Kejriwal virtually shouted at Chhotepur saying heaven would not have fallen in case he had been ex-communicated from the Sikh religion by Akal Takht on these counts.
The manifesto carried picture of the Golden Temple along with party symbol broom. Party leader Ashish Khetan also from Delhi who was present when Kejriwal released the document equated it with Guru Granth Sahib that was the second blunder. The manifesto was hastily withdrawn and Kejriwal subsequently performed service at the Golden Temple to seek forgiveness. It was during his visit to the Golden Temple that this encounter with Chhotepur took place.
AAP is learnt to have shortlisted a panel of three names with Himmat Singh Shergill at number one place as replacement of Chhotepur.
Going by the three names in circulation, the party ‘high command’ wants a docile person as the state convener who can be easily dictated. Chhotepur had made his dissent public on the issue of selection of candidates by abstaining at the time of release of the first list. He was not present even during the release of the second list although he had shared the stage with Sanjay Singh and Mann earlier during the day at Baba Bakala.