Dharamvira Gandhi, one of four AAP MPs from Punjab, says he won’t support the party if it inducts “corrupt and tainted leaders” from other parties for the Punjab assembly polls.
His statement comes at a time when Aam Aadmi Party leader and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal began a five-day tour of Punjab on Thursday to oversee the election preparations.
“I can see Punjab is ready for change. I, along with my people, will not allow the tyrannical rule of the Akali Dal-BJP combine and the perennially corrupt Congress to make a comeback,” Gandhi, 64, told IANS.
“At the same time, I will see to it that my party puts up good and clean candidates and that volunteers are respected. We will not allow corrupt turncoats to dominate the scene,” the Patiala-based Gandhi added.
“If people with dubious economic and political background are given plum posts in AAP ignoring volunteers, we will oppose them,” he added.
A cardiologist by profession, Gandhi was one of the four AAP candidates elected to the Lok Sabha in 2014. All four winners -- from among the about 400 the AAP fielded nationwide -- came from Punjab.
But Gandhi fell into Kejriwal’s bad books as he moved closer to AAP leaders Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan who were later expelled from the party.
Initially designated leader of the AAP group in the Lok Sabha, Gandhi was suspended from the party’s primary membership in August when he attended a meeting of disgruntled party activists.
Gandhi told IANS that the onus of taking him along in Punjab lay with the AAP leaders who he says suspended him on frivolous grounds.
“It is they who suspended me from the party on the plea that I attended a volunteers’ meet organised in Amritsar against certain policies of the party.
“To go there and listen to volunteers is my fundamental right. They are not from other parties but our people. It is my right as a member of a party and as a concerned citizen to listen to those who worked day and night for us,” he said.
“It was not a secretive gathering. There were 3,000 volunteers who had a lot of questions about the functioning of the party and its leadership. I went to listen to their grievances and find a solution. Just because I went there, they (AAP) suspended me in a knee-jerk reaction. For six long months, they have neither expelled me from the party nor have they taken me in. This shows they are on weak ground,” said a visibly upset Gandhi.
The AAP plans to contest elections to the 117-member Punjab assembly in what will be its first major electoral battle after it was swept to power in Delhi in February last year.
Kejriwal has claimed the AAP is poised to sweep Punjab amid speculation that some leaders of the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party may shift to the AAP.
Gandhi said: “Let them practise Swaraj, the core of the ideology on which AAP was built, I will be with them.
“Let them have transparency and accountability in the party, let them choose candidates through a democratic process, I will support them.
“But if they don’t do it, I cannot support turncoats.”
Gandhi also hit out at Kejriwal loyalist Sanjay Singh, who is overseeing the AAP in Punjab.
“Sanjay Singh and Durgesh Pathak have no business here. Punjab belongs to Punjabis as Delhi belongs to people there. Every party has observers. They (observers) come for two days and go back. But here these guys have put up permanent camps in Punjab.
“If representatives of a region don’t have autonomy in party affairs, how will they function in a diverse country like India then?” Gandhi asked.
The MP also said he won’t meet Kejriwal during his Punjab trip.
“Why should I go and see him when no one has approached me or even bothered to inform me?”