The appeal by co-convenor of Punjab unit of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Aman Arora, to Sucha Singh Chottepur and other dissidents to return to the party fold was on Friday greeted with derision by Chottepur as well as Patiala MP Dr Dharamvir Gandhi. Both Chottepur and Dr Gandhi said the appeal was a non-issue given the fact that the alleged bribe video of Chottepur, on the basis of which he was thrown out of the party, was yet to see light of the day. The former state convenor, Gurpreet Singh Waraich, had also said that he too could not manage to see the video despite several requests to the AAP leadership.
Speaking on Thursday in Jalandhar, Arora had said Chhotepur’s removal from the party post was the main reason behind AAP’s defeat in the state. He had argued that the party could have avoided the decision of sacking him as state convener. Speaking to The Indian Express, Chottepur said there was no possibility of him returning to AAP.
“They think everybody is a fool. The people who played a major role in getting me thrown out of the party now want me to come back. At that time, no one spoke for me, except Kanwar Sandhu. These 20-21 Punjab leaders wanted to get me thrown out fast so that their tickets would be assured,” he said. The former state convenor of AAP said that in his opinion, the party was “finished in Punjab”. “Look at what is happening to it. Had it not been for the anti-defection law, their MLAs would have scattered by now. The leaders are doing a lot of ‘dramebaazi’, but they have no future. People of Punjab only put faith in you once,” Chottepur said.
Dr Dharamvir Gandhi, the Patiala MP, who was suspended by AAP two years back, was scathing in his criticism of the “invitation”.
“Does he not feel ashamed by making such statement? He is playing childish politics. They are just a playing a game to show they are large-hearted and are trying to bring everybody back. The Delhi leadership is still running the show,” he said.
Dr Gandhi said the fundamental problems with AAP remained unaddressed. “It is not that simple. Without addressing all our issues like swaraj, political and financial transparency, accountability, intra-party democracy, federalism, they cannot make such offers. They have been playing all along for Delhi, and not for Punjab. As many as 20 out of 30 Punjab leaders had signed a letter asking for Chottepur to be sacked,” he said.
Bholath MLA Sukhpal Khaira said Aman Arora’s offer had vindicated his stand. “I am happy that finally AAP leadership has realised that expelling Chottepur was a political mistake. At that point of time, when I tried to stop him, the party leadership had termed my move as ‘indiscipline and anti-party’. I am happy that they have realised their mistake now,” he said.
When contacted, Leader of Opposition HS Phoolka chose not to comment on the statement made by Aman Arora.
Meanwhile, Kharar MLA Kanwar Sandhu, who had opposed Chottepur’s expulsion, said he was happy that the realisation of unity was finally dawning on the AAP leadership.
“I wish my colleagues in the party in Punjab had spoken out then. You will recall that not only was I the only one from Punjab leaders who did not sign the demand for Chottepur’s ouster, but I also made all efforts to prevent his ouster/resignation,” he said.
Sandhu said need now was to get all leaders back into the party fold, starting from Dr Gandhi. “Even at that time, I had reached out to him, but to no avail as I was not fully supported by others,” he said.