Corruption cloud, discontented cadre: Is Punjab AAP in crisis?
The Aam Aadmi Party is in trouble in Punjab. With the assembly election close, the party must contend with disgruntled cadres and rebels.
Rebellious voices are being raised from within the party almost daily. The top leadership is trying to put out the fires, not least because the election is only a few months away. The rebellions can become a stumbling block for AAP, which is seen as having a shot at power even though its campaign has lost sheen over the last four months.
On Tuesday, it was a group of volunteers that descended on Chandigarh to voice their resentment. Led by Harinder Singh and Kabul Singh from Zira, Ferozepur, and Gupteshwar Bawa of Jandiala in Jalandhar, the volunteers accused AAP of going back on its promise of removing corruption and ushering in "swaraj". They also took issue with leaders from Delhi and elsewhere calling the shots to the exclusion of Punjabis.
"Out of the 92 candidates declared so far, 59 are either tainted or of doubtful character. By making such choices, the top leadership has ensured the party's defeat in 59 constituencies as the workers have refused to cooperate with these nominees," said one of the volunteers, speaking for himself and the others.
The agitated volunteers demanded that all 59 candidates be replaced with "competent candidates".
They also asked that leaders who have been shown the door "for no valid reason be taken back into the party unconditionally. They include MPs Dr Dharamvira Gandhi and Harinder Singh Khalsa as well as Dr Daljeet Singh, Prof Manjit Singh, Jassi Jasraj. "The video purportedly implicating Succha Singh Chhotepur must either be made public or he must be taken back into the party with due apology," the volunteer said.
The volunteers want the party leadership to call back the "Delhi team" led by Sanjay Singh, Durgesh Pathak and Jarnail Singh and let Punjabis take care of their political interests.
Rather interestingly, the volunteers also demanded that AAP publicise the details of money it has collected from Punjab and abroad as well as how it was spent. All funds collected for Punjab, they said, should be spent within the state.
They gave a 48-hour ultimatum to the leadership to address their demands.
This outburst from the volunteers came a day after Varinder Singh Parihar, coordinator of AAP's NRI and Fund Raising wing, dropped a "letter bomb". In an open letter to Arvind Kejriwal, he alleged that the AAP observers sent to Punjab were "opium addicts and alcoholics", and corrupt.
"Since I was fund raising coordinator of this zone, I know about Rs 2 crore was collected from each constituency, some legally with cheques but mostly in illegal cash. All this money, approximately Rs 200 crore, belongs to the people of Punjab; you must return it. I also know who transported this money to New Delhi and which vehicles were used," Parihar wrote.
"Millions of dollars were collected from USA, Canada and other countries; you and your team committed international crimes by bringing that money to India by illegal means."