The Aam Aadmi Party, which won four of Punjab’s 13 Lok Sabha seats with a vote share of 25 per cent, is in disarray a year after. Although both the ruling SAD-BJP and the opposition Congress remain wary of it, the AAP’s prospects of emerging an alternative have been set back by infighting and indiscipline, with senior leaders openly questioning Arvind Kejriwal and state convener Sucha Singh Chhotepur.
The chairman of AAP’s disciplinary committee Punjab, Dr Daljit Singh, was himself expelled on Thursday following an outburst he made against party leaders. Daljit, an eye surgeon and a Padma Shri, had been expressing his frustration with the appointment of several leaders of “dubious reputation”. He had checked their antecedents and expelled them only to see them reinstated by Chhotepur, whom many leaders accuse of preparing a team ignoring the AAP ideology.
All this comes after the groundswell of support for AAP, especially among the youth, had worried other parties. In his mass contact programme, Congress MP Amarinder Singh, who had defeated Arun Jaitley and Daljit in Amritsar, has been attacking AAP, particularly Kejriwal, as much he has been targeting the Badals. Even Deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal has been mentioning AAP in its speeches and dismissing it as bird flu, an occasional epidemic.
Dr Daljit Singh’s expulsion has already started to make the voices of discontent louder. Patiala MP Dr Dharamvira Gandhi, who had been silent after the expulsion of Yogendra Yadav, has raised his voice again, calling Kejriwal and autocrat and undemocratic. “AAP was tipped to be the party of the future. But they are destroying it. Neither Chhotepur nor Sanjay Singh can take it anywhere. We will get rid of both of them,” said Dr Gandhi, who has the support of Fatehgarh Sahib MP Harinder Singh Khalsa. The latter has said that leaders who worked for the party and gave it its roots are being ignored.
Chhotepur, however, see no threat to AAP. “You cannot even imagine the kind of support we are getting. We started our Jan Chetna rally on May 15. People braved the heat to be a part of our programme. It shows their confidence in us,” he said.
At loggerheads, the eye surgeon and the state unit chief
Dr Daljit Singh
Sacked as disciplinary committee chief
Known popularly as ‘Akkhan da Rabb’ or ‘God of eyes’ among his patients, the Padma Shri and Punjab Rattan was the first ophthalmologist to implant an intra-ocular lens in India, in 1970. Known globally for innovations in cataract and glaucoma surgery, and son of theologian Dr Sahib Singh who translated the Guru Granth Sahib, Dr Daljit Singh, 81, joined AAP last year and lost the Lok Sabha poll from Amritsar, his hometown. “I will not join any other party. It is over,” he said.
Sucha Singh Chhotepur
Punjab AAP convener
Former health minister in S S Barnala government, close to late Sant Harchand Singh Longowal and Gurcharan Singh Tohra, son-in-law of late SAD president Mohan Singh Tur. He lost the LS poll from Gurdaspur. He was associated with radical elements of Sikh politics and was a sympathiser of late Jarnail Singh Bhindrawale before briefly joining the Congress. He resigned from the Akali government to protest against a police operation to flush militants out of the Golden Temple.