Kejriwal’s apology draws flak; AAP Punjab chief Mann, deputy resign from posts
Alliance partner Lok Insaaf Party (LIP) snapped ties with the AAP over Arvind Kejriwal’s “shocking act”.india Updated: Mar 16, 2018 22:58 IST
A day after Delhi chief minister and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) national convener Arvind Kejriwal apologised to Akali Dal politician Bikram Singh Majithia for accusing him of involvement in the drug trade, the party’s Punjab unit plunged into a crisis on Friday when its state president Bhagwant Mann and his deputy Aman Arora quit their posts in protest.
Mann, who is the Lok Sabha MP from Sangrur, was the first to make public his resignation, calling the apology a blunder. Aman Arora, MLA from the Sunam constituency, followed suit a few hours later, expressing his anguish over the apology.
AAP’s Punjab legislators, led by leader of the opposition in the state assembly Sukhpal Singh Khaira, who met in Chandigarh, unanimously criticized Kejriwal’s apology to Majithia, who said on Thursday that he had decided to withdraw the defamation suit he had filed against the AAP convener.
They also discussed the possibility of AAP’s Punjab unit “separating” from the Delhi unit. “There was no consensus on breaking away as several MLAs said they wanted to consult their supporters and constituents before making any further move. Therefore, we have deferred a decision,” Kanwar Sandhu, AAP MLA from Kharar, told reporters after the meeting. A few legislators also said they want to meet Kejriwal to ask him about his action.
Sandhu said both Mann and Dakha MLA HS Phoolka, who could not attend the meeting, informed them that they would support the decisions taken by the state leaders on the matter. AAP’s alliance partner Lok Insaaf Party (LIP), both of whose MLAs, Simarjeet Singh Bains and Balwinder Singh Bains, attended the meeting, snapped ties with the AAP over its leader’s “shocking act”.
The two parties had contested the state polls together.
The revolt by AAP’s Punjab leaders on a day of fast-paced political development left the central leaders of the party stunned. The state leaders had given an indication of their resentment by posting angry tweets after Majithia broke the news of Kejriwal’s apology on Thursday.
On Friday, 20 MLAs of AAP and LIP, who were to attend a scheduled meeting to draw up a ‘chargesheet’ against the Congress government of Punjab, went into a huddle. In the meeting, they decided to unanimously condemn the apology, saying Kejriwal’s “meek surrender” was “unfortunate and painful.”
Khaira, who addressed the media earlier, said state unit leaders were being asked by people whether Kejriwal had entered into an understanding with the Akali Dal. “Kejriwal did not take any of us into confidence before he tendered the apology. Mann and Arora were in Delhi two days ago to meet state in-charge Manish Sisodia, but there was no mention of it,” he said.
The party leaders, while dissolving the core committee set up a day ago, also decided not to attend a meeting convened by the central leadership in Delhi on Sunday. “If they want to discuss Punjab issues, they should come here,” one of them said on condition of anonymity.
The party’s Rajya Sabha MP, Sanjay Singh, said: “Majithia deserves to be in jail.”
Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia said he would reach out to AAP leaders in Punjab. He also denied a rift in the party. “Everything is fine. There is no rift (within the party), all are together. We will talk to everyone (the ones who resigned and those who are protesting) and they will understand,” he said. Sisodia said Kejriwal apologised because court cases are time-consuming. “We are fighting for the people. We will fight for citizens in courts but not for such cases. If we will spend time in courts for our own cases when will we take out time for public issues?” he said.
According to a list circulated by the party’s social media team, there are 22 hearings in which Kejriwal has to appear between March 5 and April 10. He is facing defamation cases filed by Union finance minister Arun Jaitley, transport minister Nitin Gadkari, South Delhi MP Ramesh Bidhuri, Congress leader Pawan Khera and Amit Sibal, the son of former Union minister Kapil Sibal.