Punjab Congress spokesman and former MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira, 50, is set to join the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) by next week, ending his association of more than 18 years with the Congress. Sources said Khaira had been in touch with the AAP leadership, including its national convener and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, for the past few months.
After several meetings and deliberations with AAP leaders, including Sanjay Singh, Khaira finally conveyed his willingness to quit the Congress and be part of the new political outfit. He is likely to resign from the primary membership of party in the next couple of days.
Sources said the AAP had not promised any special position to Khaira but asked him to work in the party as a common worker before the senior leadership decides to define his role in Punjab.
Sources in the AAP said it was a step towards building an organisational structure in Punjab, keeping in mind the assembly polls scheduled for 2017.
The AAP has been looking for a firebrand leader with a clean image who can confront the SAD-BJP alliance over issues such as widespread corruption and the drug menace in the state.
Punjab is the only state where the AAP had won Lok Sabha seats (four in all) in 2014.
Khaira, when contacted, said people in Punjab, besides non-resident Indians (NRIs), were eagerly anticipating his entry into the AAP. “I even posed a question on my Facebook page, asking people if it was appropriate for me to join the AAP. I was overwhelmed by the response in the affirmative. All I can say at this point is I am seriously considering the option,” he added.
Khaira’s father late Sukhjinder Singh was an Akali leader. Senior Congress leaders Rajinder Kaur Bhattal and Ghulam Nabi Azad had helped Khaira join the Congress in 1997. Khaira went on to contest the assembly polls that year from Bholath, but lost to Bibi Jagir Kaur of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD). In all, he has contested against her four times from Bholath, winning only in 2007.
It was Khaira who had reported the mysterious death of Jagir’s Kaur’s daughter in 2000. In 2012, the CBI court found her guilty of conspiracy and sentenced her to five years of rigorous imprisonment. She is currently out on bail.
Khaira’s sympathisers claim that the Congress never gave him his due in the party despite his salvos against the Akali-BJP government. They said his outbursts against his political opponents inside and outside the assembly made many party leaders consider him overambitious and a potential threat to them within the Congress. firstname.lastname@example.org