The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), it seems, has bitten more than it can chew. In sacking Sucha Singh Chhotepur as Punjab convener, it underestimated the repercussions grossly.
Chhotepur was the one building the party’s organisational network in the state since taking over as convener in 2014. His men dominated the unit until a Delhi team came over last April and deployed its own men as observers in zones and sectors. The two systems of hierarchy ran parallel but since the Delhi team had easier access to the party’s top leaders, they commanded more power.
But Chhotepur’s organisation-building has paid off. Six of the 13 zonal coordinators came out in his support even before he was sacked. Five joined his press conference on Friday, where he also flaunted the support of many sector (covers three assembly constituencies) and circle in-charges. The press conference, Chhotepur’s masterstroke, went down very well with the AAP’s support base, especially Punjabi NRIs (non-resident Indians).
He played the victim, claiming that the Delhi leadership did him in. He played the “religion” card, recalling something that hit out at party convener Arvind Kejriwal directly and sent out a message that the AAP leadership was anti- Sikh and anti-Punjabi.
He projected himself as the messiah of volunteers, party’s backbone, vowing that he was fighting for their election ticket. Besides, he said he was not going to take the “humiliation” lying down. He announced a show of strength at the Golden temple on September 3. He briefed supporters and the battle lines were drawn — it is Punjabis versus the outsiders.
Hunters turn prey
Chhotepur’s supporters also want Delhi observers Sanjay Singh and Durgesh Pathak, besides all the zone and sector observers they appointed, sacked by September 1, failing which they will show black flags to them.
On Monday, the volunteers shut the party’s zone office in Bathinda. On Tuesday, one of the six zone coordinators, Iqbal Singh Bhagowalia (Khadoor Sahib), addressed his supporters against the AAP’s Delhi leadership. Chhotepur’s supporters also vowed to “expose” the Delhi leaders and their chosen candidates. At the first press conference on Tuesday, disciplinary committee member and Batala observer Narinder Singh Walia said 15 of the 32 candidates were unsuitable and gave details of their alleged deeds.
“The party has realised that Chhotepur’s hold on the organisation is substantial,” admitted a party leader associated with damage control. “It is enough to cause cracks in several assembly seats, if not a vertical split.”