Setback for AAP in Punjab: Sucha Singh Chhotepur's interview on ABP Sanjha
It hasn’t been a good week for Delhi chief minister and master tweeter @ArvindKejriwal (with 8.83 million followers, he is the second most followed politician on Twitter in India, after prime minister Narendra Modi), but the master politician that he is, he has sought to convert every debacle over the last few days into an opportunity.
Late evening on August 31, Kejriwal tweeted that he had sacked Delhi’s Women & Child Development minister Sandeep Kumar, ostensibly because a sting showed him in an allegedly compromising position with another woman. Of course, there were no questions asked whether this was a case of mutual consent or not.
The sacking received enormous kudos on Twitter. Journalists as well as ordinary folk – the kind the Aam Admi professes to represent – vied with each other to send congratulatory messages.
AAP media coordinator Ankit Lal, of course, believes that all those who arent with AAP are against it – even though he may be blissfully unaware th at America’s George Bush first used this line, in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks on America, when he bombed Afghanistan.
“Some journos and channels making FALSE claims that #AAP had CD for 15 days. Media-persons spread the most rumors in the age of Social Media”
By the morning of September 1, Kejriwal was attacking the PM, asking why he hadn’t taken similar action against Union minister Nihal Chand Meghwal, who had been allegedly involved in a sexual assault in Jaipur in mid-2014.
AAP woes in Punjab
But all through last week, AAP and Kejriwal have been on the backfoot. First, the man in charge of AAP in Punjab, Sucha Singh Chhotepur, was sacked because he allegedly took bribes to get people into the party.
But Chhotepur, a former aide of Sant Singh Longowal and an old hand at Punjab politics, wasn’t going to take things lying down. His favourite weapon of counterattack? An interview with ABP’s Punjabi channel, ABP Sanjha, in which he accused Sangrur MP Bhagwant Singh Mann of being not only a drunk (“how can a man who drinks all the time remember in the morning what he promised you the night before?”) and a “druggist” and also “exceedingly nervous” when he heard that Navjot Singh Sidhu could be the face of AAP Punjab in the coming elections.
None other than AAP member and former journalist Kanwar Sandhu admitted on Facebook on August 31 that the party was facing a “serious crisis” in Punjab and the falling out among former best friends had begun.
“Party is indeed facing a serious crisis and I am besieged with calls and messages asking people like me to "do something". The Party remains the hope of the people of Punjab so to fulfil this hope, what do you think we need to do? I have done my own analysis but I would like to know what you all feel. Let us hear you out.”
Sandhu also pointed out that the induction of Harnail Singh Tohra, the adopted son-in-law of Gurcharan Singh Tohra, perhaps the most influential head of the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabhandak Committee, into AAP should have been subject to the same stringent standards that others are.
“I wish I had known about Harmail Singh Tohra's involvement in the unfortunate attack on AAP MP, Dr Dharamvir Gandhi in 2014 Lok Sabha polls. I would have opposed his entry. Now this person must publicly apologise for his role in the attack. Besides, he should prove that he is committed to AAP's strategy before being made a candidate for any polls. Obviously, we need to be more careful in inducting people left and right and broad-base the screening process for the same.”
However, with the Akali Dal-BJP coalition facing the brunt of the people’s anger, and Congress’ chief ministerial candidate Amarinder Singh unable to so far rouse Punjab to the extent needed to tip it over the winning line, AAP leaders sound quite confident of victory.
These leaders are hoping that the Punjab polls take place in January 2017, so that the euphoria of winning carries the party into the Goa polls, slated for February 2017, and later in the year in Gujarat. They believe that the sustained attacks on the party on the part of Lt. Gov Najeeb Jung, is really prime minister Modi and BJP party president Amit Shah striking at AAP’s growing popularity across the country.
Kejriwal’s other woes
The Jung-Kejriwal feud that has been ongoing since Kejriwal came to power in early 2015, on who had the greater power to run a semi-state like Delhi was settled by the Delhi high court recently in favour of the Lt. Gov. But instead of gracefully ending the dispute and calling upon Kejriwal to collectively end Delhi’s woes – for example, the terrible water-logging that accompanies even the most minor rainfall – Jung on August 31 sacked Kejriwal’s two key aides running his pet projects, the mohalla clinics and schools, ostensibly because they werent IAS officers.
If Jung wanted to rub Kejriwal’s nose in the mud about how badly Delhi was being run, he should have just let Dilliwallahs – and visiting US Secretary of State John Kerry who asked IITians if they had come to study on boats today -- tweet their disgust and anger at the traffic jams-a-minute. Using the #DelhiRains hashtag, residents used memes, GIFs, photos and much else in their social media armoury to drive home the point that they werent amused at the Delhi CM’s penchant for passing the buck to municipal corporations run by the BJP or areas under direct control of the Centre, and therefore the BJP.
Dadlani and the Muni
Even as Delhi was sinking under the weight of an extraordinarily gorgeous monsoon, Kejriwal was undermining the constitutional spirit that advocates the separation of religion from power by defending the speech the naked Digamber Jain saint Tarun Sagar delivered in the Haryana assembly.
So when Vishal Dadlani, the author of the musical slogan “Paanch saal/Kejriwal” and confirmed AAP supporter tweeted, “No Acche Din, Just #NoKaccheDin”, in response to the Jain monk’s presence, Kejriwal chastised him for showing disrespect. Dadlani was so upset he spent the rest of the day apologising, also on Twitter of course, for the disrespect he never meant, that he was just pointing out that that holy men had no business inside legislatures.
@VishalDadlani’s tongue-in-cheek didn’t escape the Twiterati – after all, the renunciation of politics as well as all worldly goods is what honest-to-god holy men are usually supposed to do – but Kejriwal wasn’t amused. After all, there is a large population of Jains in Gujarat – none other than Amit Shah as well as Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani belong to the community – and AAP couldn’t take the chance of offending any potential voters.
But just when the Delhi CM probably thought things couldn’t be worse, Jung threw him a lifeline, by sacking his secretaries. None other than the ‘Indian Express’ was critical, and Kejriwal was thrilled that someone was, finally, looking at the world from his lenses.
Perhaps that’s what politicians are made up of – a never-say-die temperament, even in the face of great odds and a week that started by looking not good at all.