Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) Punjab convener Sucha Singh Chhotepur, who has been voicing displeasure over choice of candidates, finds himself at the receiving end of a sting operation. While a video apparently shows a man leaving a cash packet with Chhotepur, there is also an audio file that has him “accepting” that the party’s Sangrur MP, Bhagwant Mann, has a drinking problem.
When HT contacted him on Tuesday , Chhotepur did not dispute the authenticity of either, but said the contents did not prove any wrongdoing by him. The audio clip is available on social media, but the video clip is under wraps and been shown only to a few senior leaders of the party.
On the video, he said it was made only to embarrass him. “A party supporter met me on the day party convener Arvind Kejriwal had come for a court hearing in Amritsar (on July 29). He was referred to me by two senior party leaders. He talked about general things and then tried to hand me a packet which he said was fund for the party. I refused to take it. But, while leaving, he left it on my suitcase, which I did not realise,” he explained in an interview to HT.
“It’s now apparent that he was filming the meeting. But, was the money being given for something that I had promised to do? Was it quid pro quo? The answer is ‘no’.”
Is the party collecting donation in cash packets? The veteran politician said the AAP does not even have a bank account in Punjab nor a designated treasurer “who would collect donations and disburse to us for the money we spend on the party’s work”. He said, “How are we supposed to run the party without accepting donations? Delhi leaders have come to Punjab and collected lakhs as party fund.” He claimed that day-to-day expenditure of the party is borne by supporters, volunteers and local leaders, “who help by organising meetings, rallies, and hosting Delhi leaders in their houses, among other ways”.
But there are no such stings of others, he is told. “I have been told that some Delhi leaders make sure that supporters and workers who meet them are not carrying mobile phones, not even pens. Why should I do that? I have nothing to hide. My life is an open book.”
“Every penny that is donated to the party is accounted for,” he added, “I am not pocketing anything.”
Who does he think got the sting done? “I don’t know if the Akalis are behind it, or if it is an internal move. I only know that the person who came to meet me is a close associate of two senior AAP leaders,” he said.
On the audio clip, Chhotepur said he did not know the man who recorded the conversation: “He took advantage of my straightforwardness. He said he was a party worker and was working very hard. Then he said that in TV discussions he found it difficult to justify Mann’s drinking problem.”
“I told him that the party is aware of the problem and is trying to talk to Mann about it. That’s all,” he added, “This should not be construed as my acceptance that Mann has a drinking problem.”
“It is a petty political move to embarrass me and the party,” he further said.
When contacted, AAP Punjab affairs in-charge Sanjay Singh said he is not aware of any audio or video stings.