Gurlabh Singh Mahal, man who allegedly directed the sting operation that got Sucha Singh Chhotepur sacked as state convener of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), has gone into virtual hiding since.
Lawyer Mahal, who follows a dera, is one of the founding members of the AAP in Mansa. He has had a roller-coaster of a political career. From the Congress faction of Sardulgarh legislator Ajit Inder Singh Mofar, he switched to the AAP when it entered the Lok Sabha elections.
“He is close to AAP leaders Baljinder Kaur, Harjot Singh Bains, and Himmat Singh Shergill. Shergill appointed him party’s legal cell chief in Bathinda parliamentary zone,” said a party volunteer. Till the Baisakhi rally at Talwandi Sabo this year, Mahal was at the forefront of every party meeting in Mansa.
Two days after the Baisakhi Mela, the AAP disbanded its Bathinda legal cell to punish Mahal for “indiscipline”. He had allegedly slapped Vinod Watts, sector observer for Maur, Talwandi Sabo, and Bathinda Rural assembly segments. A few days later, after the party expelled Mahal, he secured police protection alleging threat to his life.
He started claiming that he had several sting videos against senior party leaders such as national organisation-building head Durgesh Pathak and Bathinda observer Romi Bhati. “The AAP’s Delhi leadership has gone corrupt and involved the Mansa volunteers in minting money,” Gurlabh then told this correspondent. He had then confirmed Chhotepur was against his expulsion. Chhotepur, however, had condemned his seeking police protection.
Barely two months after being ousted, he came back as joint secretary of the AAP’s state legal cell. When contacted over his alleged role in the sting operation against Chhotepur and asked whether the party had promised his assembly-election ticket from Mansa, Mahal said: “I will tell you everything after two days.”
TICKET ASPIRANTS WARY OF HIM
The Chhotepur sting operation has put the Mansa AAP leadership in a fix. No one is ready to speak against Mahal.
“He filed a sacrilege case against me for circulating a picture of the Badals and head of Dera Sacha Sauda,” Mansa youth worker Bhupinder Singh said. “He might have sting videos against many volunteers and leaders.”
AAP leader Romi Bhati said the sting culture might help the party weed out corruption “but it will create huge mistrust”.
Senior leader Sukhpal Khaira didn’t oppose the decision to sack Chhotepur but said the man behind the sting should also be taken to task. “We should find out whether the sting was planned within the party.”