The question doing the rounds in the capital on Thursday was whether Arvind Kejriwal would make peace with sacked minister Sandeep Kumar as he is trying to do with the Punjab unit convenor, Sucha Singh Chhotepur. While Sandeep Kumar may look a heavyweight in view of his Dalit identity, Chhotepur has been highly popular among AAP volunteers in Punjab.
While time alone will answer this question, it’s clear that AAP has developed an enviable quality for stealing headlines and remaining in the top slot of bad news. Even as the national capital on Wednesday experienced the worst kind of traffic jams on account of the heavy rains that flooded its roads and gutters, AAP was at the top of the day’s headlines. You guessed it right! Not for its abject and despicable failure to keep the roads open through advance planning, but because one of its ministers, Sandeep Kumar, was caught on camera having sex with some unknown woman. Since he was summarily sacked from his portfolio by party supremo Arvind Kejriwal, this made another bout of juicy news.
On Thursday, Kejriwal took the battle for cleaning up the tarnished image of AAP further. He charged Sandeep Kumar of betraying the AAP movement which, according to him, is “the sole hope of the entire country.” Taking a high moral ground for “promptly sacking” Sandeep Kumar, Kejriwal said that AAP never tries to cover up wrongdoings of its leaders.
“If any evidence of wrongdoing was brought against any AAP leader or minister, the party immediately acted on it. This did not happen in other political parties,” he said.
Earlier in the day, Sandeep Kumar said that he has been framed under a “conspiracy” as he was a Dalit and demanded a probe into the issue.”This is a conspiracy against me as I belong to Valmiki Samaj. There should be a probe into this matter. I am very hurt by watching the video on television. There is no authenticity of this CD. Authenticity should be checked,” he told reporters at his residence in New Delhi.
Asked if he was the one who featured in the CD, Kumar, who held the portfolios of social welfare and women and child development, said that if a proper investigation is carried out, truth would tumble out.
“I am the only Dalit face of the party. I have been popular in the Dalit community, that’s why a conspiracy has been hatched against me. Other political parties are after us as we do not have a political background,” he added. Many believe that Sandeep Kumar’s Dalit identity may compel Kejriwal to eat his words and make peace with him – like he is trying to do in Punjab.
After claiming the moral high ground on “zero tolerance to corruption” and sacking Sucha Singh Chhotepur as its Punjab convener unceremoniously on Friday following a cash sting, the AAP is said to have softened its stand on the issue on Thursday.
Media reports indicate that AAP Punjab affairs in-charge Sanjay Singh and Chhotepur met at the latter’s house on Monday night. While Sanjay Singh is said to have told Chhotepur that “all his demands were acceptable”, Chhotepur is reported to have said no to any reconciliation for the time being.
“Chhotepur is still a member of the AAP,” Sanjay Singh said on the sidelines of a press conference in Chandigarh on Tuesday. In line with the party’s now conciliatory approach, he said: “The party will not make any negative comment on the issue.” AAP campaign committee in-charge Bhagwant Mann was also quick to point out that Chhotepur had been removed only as a convener and not from the party. The same holds true for Sandeep Kumar: he’s been removed from his ministerial portfolio, not from the party.