Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party is staring at a possible split in Punjab perilously close to assembly elections after it sacked its Punjab chief Sucha Singh Chhotepur over allegations of corruption. Mr Chhotepur, who has accused Mr Kejriwal of being “anti-Sikh,” has hit back.
Six of AAP’s 12 zonal heads in Punjab have issued an ultimatum to Delhi Chief Minister and AAP boss Mr Kejriwal that Mr Chhotepur must be reinstated. They have also sought the removal of two top leaders Sanjay Singh and Durgesh Pathak from AAP’s Punjab affairs and want action against 21 state leaders who had signed a petition seeking the sacking of Mr Chhotepur.
Sucha Singh Chhotepur, 66, a veteran Punjab politician and former state minister was removed by AAP on Friday after a meeting in Delhi. AAP says it has a video that allegedly shows Mr Chhotepur taking bribe to assign a constituency to a party candidate for the Punjab elections.
Mr Chhotepur has denied the allegation and called it conspiracy within the party against him; he will now hold a meeting of AAP rebels in Amritsar on Friday, September 2. Mr Chhotepur has been a member of the Akali Dal and later the Congress before Arvind Kejriwal asked him to build AAP’s cadre in the state in preparation for the elections in early 2017.
Mr Kejriwal hopes to end the cycle of the Congress and Akali Dal taking turns to rule Punjab by replicating in the state his stupendous success in Delhi last year. A split in the party at this time will make a solid dent in those plans.
The AAP chief will visit Punjab next week to release another in a series of separate manifestos that AAP has prepared, this time for farmers.
It was the release of a “youth manifesto” earlier this month that brought the deep differences between Mr Chhotepur and Mr Kejriwal to the fore. Mr Chhotepur alleges that he was kept in the dark about that manifesto and then was asked to “lie in public by Mr Kejriwal,” that he knew about it.
As AAP was deciding on his fate in Delhi on Friday, Mr Chhotepur alleged at a press conference that he has been penalised by the party because he refused to lie as he is “a true Sikh.”