Testing time for AAP in Punjab

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The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is facing a major test in Punjab after marginalising Sucha Singh Chhotepur, a two-term MLA with half a century of political life behind him. The man from Gurdaspur had become a prominent face in state politics by the sole virtue of being made the state convener of a party that perceives the political wind is in its favour. His post could have made him a contender for the Chief Minister’s chair. But of late things were not hunky dory. Chhotepur, who should have been in the thick of the selection process, expressed his misgivings with the first two lists of candidates.
Chhotepur has accepted receiving money and not issuing a receipt. This violated AAP’s cardinal rule of fund collection that purports to set it apart from its competitors.
AAP may have had no option but to set an example before word got out about a similar culture taking root in the party. Already one of its activists has made a similar charge against its core committee member Sanjay Singh.
It was also time to redirect the narrative at a time when MP Dharamvir Gandhi decided to back non-AAP candidates, the hedging of bets by Navjot Singh Sidhu and former Olympian Pargat Singh keeping up the suspense about their joining the party.
AAP will also be tested on former CM Amarinder Singh’s charge that the party’s Delhi leaders are calling the shots, although he himself was made Punjab Congress president on a directive from the High Command in the national capital. If the past is any indicator, the previous expulsion of heavyweights did not dent AAP’s performance.
Punjab is not cosmopolitan like Delhi but has a strong identity of its own, besides a layered societal set-up. The Punjab polls will be a do-or-die battle for all three formations in the fray.
The challenge before AAP will be to beat battle-hardened veterans with a team bereft of weathered politicians. Chhotepur’s removal may or may not be a conspiracy but it will send a salutory signal to AAP’s rank and file.

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