A day after endorsing Swaraj Party carved out of Yogendra Yadav’s Swaraj Abhiyan self-rule movement in Punjab, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) suspended MPs Dr Dharamvira Gandhi (Patiala) and Harinder Singh Khalsa (Fatehgarh Sahib) took a U-turn on Monday and said they were against it.
Khalsa even saw an “outside hand” in the split. He said “political brokers and outsiders backed by the Congress and Shiromani Akali Dal” had hijacked the idea of “true volunteers of the AAP who were in the process of forming an alternative to it in Punjab”. In a written statement issued here, he has also clarified that on the insistence of former AAP leader professor Manjit Singh, he did sign a press release about good wishes to the convention “but nowhere was any mention of forming a political party, my support to it, or solidarity with the people behind it”.
He said that to get his signatures on the handwritten document, the professor had driven to Gurdaspur to catch him at the bhog of a close relative. “What they (the founders of Swaraj Party) have done is not only incorrect but also unethical. It smells of the backing of the Akalis and the Congress, which don’t want a true Punjabi party to emerge,” said Khalsa, adding: “I am not associated with it.”
Dr Gandhi told HT he welcomed any idea, party, or organisation that talked of alternative politics and pro-people policies “but I have not extended any support to the Swaraj Party”. He did acknowledge sending a written message to founding convention but said he had never talked of support to the new party. “Even though suspended, I am still a primary member of the AAP. How can I support any other political outfit,” he said, adding: “I still welcome the formation of the Swaraj party, as it talks of alternative politics and common man’s issues.”
Professor Manjit Singh said the Swaraj Lehar convention was about self-rule and alternative politics and Dr Gandhi had not only sent him a written letter of endorsement but also mailed him an audio-visual clip “praising our efforts for clean and pro-people politics”. “The delegates saw both messages. Khalsa’s message was also read out. Both MPs support alternative politics,” he said.