Two years after he was removed as state convenor and expelled from Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) over bribery charges, forcing him to leave the party and float his own outfit, AAP leadership has reached out to Sucha Singh Chottepur asking him to return to the party fold.
In a late night development Sunday, Leader of Opposition Harpal Cheema, Barnala MLA Meet Hayer, Talwandi Sabo MLA Baljinder Kaur and state co-president Dr Balbir Singh met Chottepur at his residence in Mohali. The Punjab leaders told Chottepur that they had come to convey the message of the Delhi leadership of the party that he should return to the party fold.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Sucha Singh Chottepur said that this was the first time that anyone from AAP had met him after he was removed in August 2016. “As far as I am concerned, I have told them that I have not forgotten what the party did to me two years back. And I minced no words in what I said. They were my guests so I had to be respectful towards them. However, I told them to convey my words to the Delhi leaders including Arvind Kejriwal,” he said.
When asked if the AAP leadership was not again veering towards the leaders it had once thrown out because of the approaching general elections and the weak wicket that the party was on because of internal rift, Chottepur said that the people of the state were very wise and can see who is doing what with what reason. “It is the people who put you on a pedestal and they bring you down too. As far as I am concerned I will hold discussions with my own party people and any decision will be taken after consulting them,” he said.
Chottepur had been sacked by the AAP after a sting operation surfaced in which he was allegedly seen taking money from a party worker. He had contested the allegation and had said that this was an internal plot by certain leaders to oust him. Chottepur had later floated Apna Punjab Party after his removal from AAP. His party candidates contested on all seats in the 2017 Assembly polls in the state but did not make any impact.
Chottepur said that the no one, apart from Kanwar Sandhu, had been in touch with him from the dissident MLAs camp. “I have high regard for Sandhu because he spoke up for me when I was being hounded in AAP. And our culture dictates that whoever has stood by you in hour of need, you must stand by him too,” he said.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Sukhpal Khaira said this is not the way to reach out to those people who were thrown out of the party and humiliated. “You have to make corrections to your ideology. People of Punjab will not be run in autocratic manner. Once you decide that the party will be run by people of Punjab, everything will settle down,” he said. He added that as far as he and other MLAs with him are concerned, the Delhi leadership has not approached them till now and all such reports are contrary to the truth.
Reacting to the development, Kharar MLA Kanwar Sandhu said that approaching individual leaders will not help. “We believe that the basic issue needs to be addressed. People can get together, but till you have autonomy for the state unit and the right organisational structure nothing will help. They are on the wrong path,” he said.
Patiala MP Dr Dharamvir Gandhi, who is also suspended from AAP for the past three years, said that the AAP leadership knows what it did to Chottepur and was now trying to make amends ahead of the 2019 polls. “As far as I am concerned, my position is entirely different than that of Khaira or Chottepur. My demand is not for autonomy to Punjab unit of AAP. My demand is for autonomy to Punjab within India. If Kejriwal can adopt this demand and think on a larger canvas, I can have truck with anyone,” he said.