AAP's implosion: Arvind Kejriwal's Punjab dream is slowly turning into a nightmare

The Aam Aadmi Party's (AAP) troubles are far from over. As Arvind Kejriwal's party gears up for the Punjab Assembly Election in 2017, in the hope of repeating its performance in the Delhi Assembly polls, skeletons keep tumbling out of its closet with AAP leaders bumbling and struggling to put out fires everywhere.

After former cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu quit the Rajya Sabha, speculations were rife that he would be welcomed with opened arms by Kejriwal. Last week, Sidhu's decision to float a new party Awaaz-e-Punjab with former hockey captain Pargat Singh and the Bains brothers — Simarjeet Singh Bains and Balwinder Singh Bains — came as a shocker to AAP. Reports suggested that AAP's reluctance to declare Sidhu as its chief ministerial candidate led him to forming the new party.

In a latest development, former senior Punjab Congress leader Jagmeet Singh Brar is set to join hands with AAP in Punjab, CNN-News 18 reported on Tuesday. Brar's Janhit Abhiyan will fight Punjab polls on AAP symbol, an alliance reportedly orchestrated by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. The report added they might approach Sidhu also for a pre-poll alliance.

File image of Arvind Kejriwal. PTI

File image of Arvind Kejriwal. PTI

According to The Times of India, 86 office-bears of AAP's Amritsar unit resigned from the party citing "dictatorial behaviour by party observers from outside Punjab." In-charge of Amritsar zone Gurinder Singh Bajwa told TOI that members of other Punjab units are also likely to leave the party. The report added that these office-bears also hinted they could join Sidhu's party ahead of the state polls.

As per The Economic Times, AAP's former Punjab convener Sucha Singh Chhotepur is also likely to join Awaaz-e-Punjab. Chhotepur, was removed from his post after a video clip surfaced allegedly showing him taking bribe for giving tickets in a purported sting operation. However, surprised with the kind of support Chhotepur garnered after his removal, senior AAP leaders softened its stand on the ousted leader. Chhotepur, however, ruled out any reconciliation and told PTI, "Yes, he (Sanjay Singh) came to my house. I told him there is no need to placate me as the party has tried to damage me. The party has not only thrown me out, but also humiliated me."

Meanwhile, former state minister Sandeep Kumar, who was sacked from the Cabinet after an alleged sex tape surfaced, has claimed that his private secretary was allegedly blackmailing him, reported Hindustan Times. Earlier, he had cried conspiracy and said he was being targeted for being Dalit. Kumar, who was arrested following a complaint by a woman who figured in the video clip with him in an objectionable position, will remain in police custody till 8 September. After the scandal became public, Kejriwal in an emotional video message said that the difference between AAP and other parties is that his party takes action against party workers immediately if there is strong evidence against them.

AAP's official spokesperson Ashutosh made matters worse when in his column on NDTV, he wrote: "The question then is that if two consenting adults are physically involved with each other, is it a crime? Is it editorially justified that this becomes a headline in newspapers and TV channels?"

The National Commission for Women (NCW) soon summoned Ashutosh. "We have asked him to come on 8 September. This is in response to what we feel is a very reprehensible and demeaning blog Ashutosh wrote, where he defended a man accused of rape," NCW Chairperson Lalitha Kumaramangalam had said.

On Monday, Ashutosh lashed out at the NCW and said the police case against him was an "infringement" on his right to freedom of expression. In a series of tweets, he said: "Registration of police cases and NCW can't scare me! I am born in free India, I am a proud Indian !! Constitution is my religion!" He also said that he has the right to express his opinion and nobody has given NCW the right to "muzzle" his voice.

The AAP's problems further aggravated after party MLA Devinder Sehrawat shot off a letter to Kejriwal over alleged "exploitation of women" by a few partymen in return for tickets. AAP refuted the claims made by Sehrawat and said the party is likely to sue him over his remarks. A defiant Sehrawat said that he has written the letters with "full responsibility" and will "follow it up" till finality.

Typical to AAP, the party's Punjab in-charge Sanjay Singh alleged conspiracy by the BJP and Akali Dal and said: "The allegations levelled by Sehrawat are baseless. They are also an insult to people and women of Punjab. I challenge him to prove his charges and I will quit public and political life. I will file a defamation suit against Sehrawat and he has to prove his charges before the court."

As AAP stumbles from one conspiracy to the other, Kejriwal has a tough task of assimilating his party workers and silencing the growing dissent with the party, if he has to keep his national ambitions alive.

With inputs from PTI

Updated Date: Sep 06, 2016 14:54 PM

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