In yet another setback for the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) after it declared its first list of candidates, the party’s MLA from Phillaur, Avinash Chander, resigned from the party and the Vidhan Sabha on Friday to protest denial of ticket “from any reserved segment in Jalandhar”.
This came on the day that six-time MLA and former minister Sarwan Singh Phillaur, who quit for the same reason on Thursday, joined the Congress.
Names of both had cropped up in cases related to the multi-crore drug racket busted in 2014 with the arrest of former Arjuna Awardee wrestler and cop Jagdish Bhola.
Two-time MLA Chander — who was also chief parliamentary secretary for higher education in the Parkash Singh Badal-led SAD-BJP government before the post was abolished by the high court — said, “I am disheartened to see that I was made a scapegoat on the drug issue by denying ticket. I was summoned (by the Enforcement Directorate) merely because my name was found in an inauthentic notebook recovered from a Goraya-based businessman.”
“Why has the SAD given the ticket to other leaders who were summoned on authentic grounds? Are we being made soft targets?” Chander asked, not naming anyone.
In his resignation to the assembly speaker, he said he is quitting his membership “on moral grounds” after quitting the party. His one-line resignation to SAD chief and deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal simply read, “Respected Sir, I hereby resign from the primary membership of the party. Please accept the same.”
Chander told HT he is “feeling relaxed” now. “I was feeling the burden for the past some time. For the time being, I am going on a holiday with my family. However, I have kept all political options available before me open,” he said.
His political sidelining had started recently after the party announced former Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader Baldev Khaira as halqa in-charge from his segment.
After denial of ticket to Sarwan Singh from Kartarpur, Chander hoped that Adamour MLA Pawan Kumar Tinu would be shifted there, while he would get the Adampur ticket.
Now, sources said, Chander is considering going back to the BSP, which he had left for the SAD before the 2007 polls; and contest from Kartarpur.
“The Congress is also in touch with Chander due to his proximity to the Dera Sachkhand Ballan (a prominent Dalit sect),” one of his close associates claimed.
With Chander’s resignation, the number of MLAs to have quit the 117-member assembly has reached 48. This includes 42 from the Congress, three from the SAD and three independents.