Eyeing windfall gains in poll-bound Punjab, the script for Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is getting complex. First, the high-profile induction of cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu couldn’t take off and now, the party had to remove its state unit chief on the charges of internal graft.
Cracking the whip, the AAP removed Sucha Singh Chhotepur in the wake of allegations that he took bribe from a ticket aspirant. The decision to remove Chhotepur as Punjab convenor was taken by AAP’s highest decision making body, the Political Affairs Committee in New Delhi on Saturday.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who also doubles up as the national convener of the party, presides over the Political Affairs Committee.
The meeting was attended by party’s top brass and MPs Bhagwant Mann and Sadhu Singh, AAP’s Punjab co-convenor Durgesh Pathak, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia and Labour Minister Gopal Rai.
The AAP has also formed a two member team comprising Jarnail Singh, party’s co-convenor in Punjab and MLA from Rajouri Garden and retired IAS officer Jasbir Singh Bir. “Chhotepur was also given a chance to exit honourably, but he denied that,” said an AAP leader.
“The person has already paid him Rs 4 lakh, of which Chhotepur returned Rs 3 lakh. He kept the rest of the amount with him,” Mann said.
Meanwhile, Chhotepur, in a news conference at Chandigarh, said, “I am saddened that the party, instead of defending me has levelled allegations against me.”
On the issue of purported sting operation against him, Chhotepur claimed it was a “conspiracy” hatched by “my own friends within the party.”
“I have 40 years of political career. I am honest and a simple farmer. I am ready for CBI probe (on allegations of bribe). If found guilty they (AAP leadership) can hang me,” Chhotepur said, adding “I never asked for money from anyone”.
21 AAP leaders from Punjab had on Saturday shot off a letter to party’s national convenor Kejriwal asking him to immediately sack Chhotepur from the party after a controversy erupted over a video clip allegedly showing him taking money.
Besides, defending himself, Chhotepur added that he would not leave the AAP and rather “strive hard for the party”.
(With inputs from the PTI)