As firebrand spokesman of the Punjab Congress, former MLA Sukhpal Khaira had the Badal government scurrying for reactions to his press statements and press conferences after he blew the lid off major scandals and irregularities.
But Khaira found himself battling his worst political crisis earlier this year after being sidelined by his party and the government too “unleashing the state force” on him just when he was waiting for a dream foray into the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
Known for his abrasive style that has rubbed many the wrong way, Khaira was left ploughing a lone furrow in the Congress. There is no love lost between him and state Congress president Capt Amarinder Singh, whose hardcore loyalist Kapurthala MLA Rana Gurjit Singh, does not see eye to eye with Khaira. The over-ambitious leader may finally see his resurrection after joining the AAP while the party may find a crusader for its cause.
With his no-holds-barred attacks on the Punjab government through access to government files and officialdom, Khaira has the potential to emerge as the face of the AAP which had been battling a credibility and leadership crisis in the state after slicing away a major chunk of vote share of both the Congress and the ruling Akalis during the Lok Sabha elections by bagging all its four seats from Punjab. The party needs a vitriolic spokesman to launch offensives against both Congress and SAD-BJP in the run-up to state polls. For a party torn by factionalism, Khaira’s induction will also help AAP convenor Sucha Singh Chhotepur to consolidate his position.
Though he has just a maiden assembly victory to his credit, the mediasavvy and articulate former Congress MLA has been able to remain in limelight by his sensational disclosures on the Badals and their loyalist and his bitter political rival, Bibi Jagir Kaur, who has defeated him thrice to claim the Bholath seat.
Out in cold in Congress
A foe’s enemy is a friend, so Khaira emerged as the biggest sympathiser of former Punjab Congress chief Partap Bajwa. But over-ambitious and somewhat self-centred, Khaira soon ruffled the feathers of Bajwa by “overshadowing” him and firing salvos at political opponents that also left Bajwa hurt. As Khaira exposed how chief parliamentary secretary NK Sharma, a land baron, had flouted environment norms for his housing projects, the latter embroiled Bajwa and his younger brother, Fateh Jang, in murky land deals controversy forcing Bajwa to dub Khaira a “misguided missile”.
After running out of favour with Bajwa, Khaira was looking at reviving his flagging political innings by joining the AAP, when the Akali regime under stewardship of deputy CM Sukhbir Badal struck back with full force to “sabotage” his entry into the AAP.
The government turned the heat on him after his old supporter Gurdev Singh, a former sarpanch of Lakhan Ke Padde village, was nabbed by Punjab Police on charges of smuggling narcotics. The charges were much more grave than the six cases slapped on him before.
Enough to temporarily silence a man who is a complainant in the Supreme Court seeking shifting of the corruption and disproportionate assets case against the Badal family out of Punjab; who also petitioned the Supreme Court for “wrongful” allocation of `1 crore government funds to Sanawar, a school in Himachal Pradesh, by alumnus Sukhbir Badal; and who had led to transfer of the then Punjab DGP Sumedh Saini during the Lok Sabha elections in 2014 owing to his complaint to the Election Commission; and who had made a formal complaint to the Enforcement Directorate against Sukhbir’s brother-in-law, Punjab revenue minister Bikram Majithia, alleging Rs 70 lakh “hawala” transaction. Claim to fame Unflinchingly following the one-point agenda of demolishing Jagir Kaur, Khaira became an overnight celebrity for highlighting the murder of her daughter, Harpreet Kaur, in 2000. He doled out saucy statements and information to the media on the court proceedings till the time he finally got the Bibi convicted of conspiracy in her daughter’s murder.
This and his vitriolic attacks on the government made him a Punjab leader even the Congress high command took notice of, helping Khaira to survive three poll drubbings with just one intermittent victory to show off.
Crusader or over-ambitious?
His love for publicity is not a hype. With both time and inclination, Khaira has created his own fan following on social media. From uploading pictures to making videos, he does everything that ensures the government is embarrassed and he is in the news.
Khaira has, however, stayed low-profile after being hounded by the government with a vengeance. But those who have seen his political manoeuvring closely, dub him as over-ambitious.
“He is a crusader and has the courage to take on the might of the government. But he is not without faults. He is a headline hunter, who at times delves to ridiculous levels of megalomania. Though none of the corruption charges has come to stick on him,” is how a Congress MLA puts it.