Punjab’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) convener Sucha Singh Chhotepur, one of the most senior leaders of the party in the state, absented himself when it announced the first list of candidates for the 2017 assembly elections on Thursday. On Wednesday, he walked out of a meeting with the party’s Punjab affairs in-charge, Sanjay Singh, following differences over the ticket distribution. Talking to HT on Friday, Chhotepur said he was disappointed with the choice of candidates but his difference of opinion could not be seen as dissent.
HT: Does the first list of the candidates have your approval?
Chhotepur: I differ with the party over some candidates. I will discuss it with the party convener Arvind Kejriwal and I’m sure he will see my reason and review the list.
Who are these candidates?
I cannot name the candidates or the constituencies. I will not do anything to damage the AAP in Punjab. It’s a party we have built with a lot of hard work and toil.
Your confidant Hardip Singh Kingra has resigned from the party and levelled serious allegations against Delhi-based AAP leader Durgesh Pathak.
These are his personal views. I don’t believe in speaking publicly against my party or any individual I may have differences with. If I feel the need to criticise a decision, I do it within the four walls of the party. Ours is a democratic party that hears and respects everyone.
Do you agree that Delhi leaders have centralised power and taken Punjab leaders for a ride?
I have nothing to say on this. If I ever feel so, I will tell Kejriwal.
What if Kejriwal disagrees with your views on the candidates and refuses to make any change?
I think my word will have some impact on Kejriwal. In case he disagrees, there’s nothing more I can do but abide by the choices. There is no way I am going to resign from the party after toiling for three years to bring it to this stage.
What changes do you want in the list?
There are some people who have worked harder and more dedicatedly than those chosen.
Is this why protests have erupted at some places in Punjab?
Every ticket distribution leads to some resistance. It happens to all parties. It is the duty of senior leaders to pacify the workers.
Do you think ticket should be awarded so early?
I do think it is too early. We are a party the opponents are scared of, and it might drive them desperate. I don’t want any harm to come to any of the candidates. Our contenders are hard working, innocent people, and the Akalis are already talking of beating them up. The candidates should have been announced later, but that’s my opinion.