After his removal as AAP’s Punjab convener, Sucha Singh Chhotepur, 65, is just a step short of expulsion from the party that he had joined hoping to resurrect his political career. An original Akali and a baptised Sikh, he was last elected as an independent MLA in 2002, but now finds himself at the crossroads — a turf he is not unfamiliar with in his three-decade political career starting as a village sarpanch.
So far, only Punjab Congress chief Captain Amarinder Singh has warmed up to him, welcoming the “old friend” to the Congress fold. Amarinder and Chhotepur were Akali ministers in the Surjit Singh Barnala government in the mid-1980s. Both resigned from the cabinet in the aftermath of police entry in the Golden Temple complex in April 1986 when extremists declared ‘Khalistan’ from the Akal Takht. Given his past, though, it is unlikely that Chhotepur will jump onto the Congress bandwagon.
The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has praised Chhotepur for his anti-Kejriwal rant, but party chief Sukhbir Singh Badal was quick to rule out the possibility of taking him in. Incidentally, the AAP renegade is son-in-law of former Akali Dal president Mohan Singh Tur.
That leaves him with the option of floating a splinter faction of the AAP and aligning himself with the fourth front led by AAP’s suspended leader and Patiala MP Dr Dharamvira Gandhi, who has lately pitched himself as the pivot of a Punjab-centric conglomerate of breakaway AAP leaders and volunteers. Ideologically, Chhotepur may find himself closer to the Gandhi-led grouping. “His politics hinges on his anti-Akali, anti-Congress credentials. To retain that base, he will have to look at an option beyond those two,” said a close aide of Chhotepur.
For now, Chhotepur’s priority is to gather his flock in the AAP. At Friday’s press conference, he was flanked by five of the AAP’s 13 parliamentary zone coordinators, from Gurdaspur, Jalandhar, Amritsar, Bathinda and Anandpur Sahib. Also present were sector and circle coordinators from at least 10 districts. He is hoping to emerge as a rallying figure for AAP leaders left disgruntled over ticket allocation. HTC