Chandigarh, September 1: Aam Aadmi Party was the most dominant streak in the Punjab political spectrum till August 5 when the party released the first list of its 19 candidates. Within less than a month, the party is on the verge of being pushed to the margins. The party had wrongly assesses the impact of the sack of Sucha Singh Chhotepur as Punjab convener who had nourished it for the last more than two years. This miscalculation raises question mark over the functioning of the party and its strategists.
That the party had blundered even in Delhi in the choice of its candidates has further been reinforced with one of its ministers have surfaced in sex scandal leading to his dismissal. Sandeep Kumar was the minister for women and child development. What an irony. He was an Aam Aadmi. This is going to have direct impact on Punjab which is the next target of the party.
The unexpected support that is pouring in including from the NRIs has emboldened Chhotepur who has now drawn the line. There is no question of his getting insulted and humiliated by going back. Moreover, he has been thrown out on the charge of corruption that does not stick on him going by his political career.
He became chairman of Dhariwal block samiti in 1975 and of the Gurdaspur Land Mortgage Bank a year later. He was less than 25 years of age. He was already his village sarpanch while he was a student. He had remained elected general secretary of the college students association for four years. What is significant is that all the farm loans used to be routed through the land mortgage bank in those days. “I ensured that there was no corruption and fleecing of the farmers”, he asserts.
It may be mentioned that the day he was removed as party convener on the charge of accepting Rs 2 lakh from a party activist, he had offered his entire political career to be probed by the CBI.
Married to the daughter of Akali stalwart and party chief Mohan Singh Tur, his mentors were two other distinguished leaders Jathedar Gurcharan Singh Tohra and Sant Harchand Singh Longowal, both symbols of honesty in public life. He jumped into the mainstream Akali politics with his unopposed election to the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee in 1979.
Chhotepur may not have been the man of the masses so far but he has been man of the party workers and that has always been his main strength. With the amount of support that he is being promised, he is full of enthusiasm.
“I have been charged with accepting Rs 2 lakh. Let them make the sting public. I challenge Arvind Kejriwal and his team to come out with the party accounts beginning with the Lok Sabha elections. Nobody has maintained any account. They never asked me as to how I was running the party all this time. The expenses were being met from contributions and donations by the people. I have travelled more than 14,000 kms ever since I took over as convener”, he said. He asserts there has been no transparency in the functioning of the Delhi team headed by Durgesh Pathak and Sanjay Singh that has been camping in Punjab.
He has been continuously on phone for the last about 72 hours with people from all over assuring him full support.
The party is already getting vertically divided with reports of clashes at several places. The party workers today burnt the effigy of Kejriwal and AAP caps in Nawan Shahar. In yet another development, Sangrur MP Bhagwant Mann had a verbal duel with media persons during road show at Fatehgarh Sahib. Amritsar witnesses clashes in the party office between the two factions yesterday.
Chhotepur invited the extreme action due to his opposition to the selection of certain candidates in the first list. He was not taken into confidence. Several of these candidates are facing protests from the party workers in their respective constituencies. He stands vindicated.
That the system of selection of candidates is flawed has been further proved in Delhi and a minister being in sex scandal being the latest stigma.
There is a big difference between Delhi and Punjab. Delhi is the region of what can be termed as floaters, the people who have come from various parts of the country in search of a living. That is not the case with Punjab as the people are deeply rooted here. Moreover, the nature of Punjab political discourse is totally different from the rest of the states in the country. That the party has already realized it at a heavy cost with the two blunders it committed during the release of the now forgotten manifesto for the youth.
Although the real situation would emerge after about a fortnight when Chhotepur announces his next move, it is the new outfit to be born that might replace AAP as the third dimension. This assessment is based upon the initial support that he is getting and people’s anger against the functioning of outsiders controlling the party.