NEW DELHI: With the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) dithering over the induction of Navjot Singh Sidhu into its fold in Punjab, the former BJP Rajya Sabha member has knocked on the doors of the Congress and plans to meet its vice-president Rahul Gandhi for further deliberations.
Following the Sidhu setback, coupled with removal of its Punjab unit chief Suchcha Singh Chhotepur over accusation of taking bribe, the AAP appears to be on the verge of split.
Sources also pointed out that the current crisis in the party stems from the fact that both Sidhu and Chhotepur are “popular Punjabi leaders” who could have overshadowed AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal in public appeal. Both Sidhu and Chhotepur were given a raw deal, as they were independent-minded and commanded a constituency of their own, sources said, citing the treatment meted out to former members Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav.
Sidhu, who is already in talks with Punjab Congress president Amarinder Singh over joining the party, has reportedly been offered Lok Sabha seat from Amritsar and his wife Navjot Kaur Sidhu, the post of Deputy CM, if the Congress wins the Punjab polls.
Sources said that Sidhu was annoyed with AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal’s U-turn ahead of his induction into the party. He was approached by the AAP and promised to be projected as chief ministerial candidate. But many leaders from the State objected, suggesting possible infighting within the party.
Then Kejriwal last week put an end to Sidhu’s possible induction into the party, saying the cricketer-turned-politician had not put any pre-condition and just needs “time to think”.
On Friday, as Kejriwal suspended Suchcha Singh Chhotepur, the most popular face of the party in Punjab, following which AAP has got into deep trouble in the State where polls are scheduled next year. The party alleged that in a sting operation, the 65-year-old Chhotepur is allegedly seen accepting cash from a candidate.
Chhotepur, however, has denied the allegations and said that there was a conspiracy hatched against him by some of his own partymen and he called Kejriwal as “anti-Sikh”.
Sources said Kejriwal fell out with Chhotepur mainly over the selection of candidates for Punjab. The party has released two lists of candidates but Chhotepur was missing on both occasions. He was unhappy with the involvement of many non-Punjabi leaders in selection of candidates.
Chhotepur, who had built the party from scratch in the State, has influence among the rural voters, farmers and Jat Sikhs voters in the Majha region. According to sources, Chhotepur’s exit leaves AAP on the verge of a split.