After claiming the moral high ground on “zero tolerance to corruption” and sacking Sucha Singh Chhotepur as its Punjab convener unceremoniously on Friday following a cash sting, the AAP softened its stand on Tuesday.
Sources said AAP Punjab affairs in-charge Sanjay Singh and Chhotepur met at the latter’s house on Monday night. While Sanjay Singh is said to have told Chhotepur that “all his demands were acceptable”, Chhotepur is reported to have said no to any reconciliation for the time being.
“Chhotepur is still a member of the AAP,” Sanjay Singh said on the sidelines of a press conference here on Tuesday. In line with the party’s now conciliatory approach, he said: “The party will not make any negative comment on the issue.” AAP campaign committee in-charge Bhagwant Mann was also quick to point out that Chhotepur had been removed only as convener.
The party’s placatory move comes in wake of the party carrying out an “impact assessment” exercise after sacking Chhotepur. The party had also decided to put on hold the appointment of a new Punjab convener to avoid fuelling factionalism in the state unit ahead of the assembly elections next year. “Chhotepur’s in-house sting and subsequent removal gained him more sympathy than hostility. The AAP didn’t expect this reaction,” said one of Chhotepur’s aides. Six of the party’s 13 zone coordinators have demanded Chhotepur’s reinstatement by September 1.
Sanjay Singh has been camping in Chandigarh since Monday, meeting local leaders and placating those who want Chhotepur to be brought back. To explain the U-turn, party sources said “a large section within the party” was “convinced” by Chhotepur’s explanation that he was forced to arrange money on his own to run the state unit and was not into any deals with those who paid him cash.
Reports from the Chhotepur camp suggest that his first reaction to the reconciliatory offer is of distrust. “We have advised him to get everything in writing from the AAP leaders before deciding,” said his aide. Another supporter saw the move as the party’s attempt to tide over the current crisis and buy time to blunt its impact. “They aim at derailing the protests that Chhotepur’s supporters have planned,” he said.
Despite the misgivings of the Chhotepur camp, the party is hopeful of winning Chhotepur back. “It might take time but we will find a way out,” said a senior AAP leader. Chhotepur could not be contacted, while Sanjay Singh refused to comment about meeting him.