Chandigarh: With reports indicating that differences have cropped up within the AAP in poll-bound Punjab and convener Sucha Singh Chhotepur has been marginalised, the Congress jumped in his defence on Thursday, saying that "outsider" AAP leaders were trying to fix a "son of the soil".
Condemning the "dirty tricks resorted to by Aam Aadmi Party leaders from Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Haryana against the son of the soil Sucha Singh Chhotepur, who nourished and nurtured the party right from the day of its conception in Punjab", Punjab Congress President Amarinder Singh said that AAP leaders from outside the state have taken control of the party and were trying to fix the state leadership.
The internal controversy in the AAP started after the emergence of a video clip showing an AAP worker giving money to Chhotepur.
In the first two lists of 32 candidates released by the AAP, Chhotepur's name was not cleared for any assembly seat. He was also not present at both press conferences where the lists were announced by AAP leaders, especially of Sanjay Singh, who is in charge of the party's affairs in Punjab.
Party sources said that Chhotepur had expressed objections to a few names in both lists but AAP national convener Arvind Kejriwal did not give any time to him to discuss the issue.
Chhotepur has told media that he had objections to a few names and had sought time to meet Kejriwal.
"The sting operation has clearly been conceived, planned and executed as part of an internal coup engineered by the AAP leaders from outside who want to control Punjab through remote by using their local stooges and inconsequential wannabe leaders," Amarinder Singh said.
"Kejriwal should look into the monumental transformation in the lifestyle of leaders like Sanjay Singh and Durgesh Pathak since they started their political career in Punjab. It is a blatantly shameless attempt by people like Arvind Kejriwal, Sanjay Singh, Durgesh Pathak and Ashish Khetan to control the party from Delhi, UP and Haryana," Amarinder said, while adding that the move was to oust Chhotepur from the AAP.
Seeking an explanation from Kejriwal and other AAP leaders for the hundreds of crores of rupees collected for the Punjab assembly elections, Amarinder Singh sought a probe into the AAP funding.
Strongly defending Chhotepur on the video clip issue, Amarinder said: "I may have strong political differences with Mr Chhotepur, but I also acknowledge and admire his qualities of honesty and integrity and will not like to keep quiet when he is being made a victim of an internal coup and intrigue."
"Kejriwal has a history and character of using and throwing away people. He did it with his mentor Anna Hazare, Kiran Bedi, Yogendra Yadav, Prashant Bhushan, and Chhotepur is only the next and not the last in line," Amarinder said.
He added that two AAP MPs from Punjab, Dharamvira Gandhi and Harinder Khalsa, were also suspended from the AAP for questioning the AAP leadership style.
The AAP is posing a challenge to the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP alliance and the opposition Congress in the Punjab assembly polls likely to be held in February next year.
The Akali Dal-BJP alliance has been in power in the state since 2007.