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Lok Sabha election: Congress playing poaching games, allege AAP MLAs

Holding show of strength, legislators from party’s rebel faction too accuse ruling party of spreading canards.

lok sabha elections Updated: Apr 27, 2019 22:20 IST
Sukhdeep Kaur
Sukhdeep Kaur
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Lok Sabha election,Congress,AAP
The MLAs owing allegiance to party chief Arvind Kejriwal held a show of strength in Chandigarh on Saturday to refute reports that some of them were ready to switch loyalties.(HT Photo)

Days after Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) rebel MLA Nazar Singh Manshahia joined the Congress, party legislators accused the ruling party of being on a poaching expedition. Of the 20 MLAs of the party, seven had were part of the rebel faction led by Sukhpal Singh Khaira. After Manshahia’s defection, their count is down to six.

The MLAs owing allegiance to party chief Arvind Kejriwal held a show of strength in Chandigarh on Saturday to refute reports that some of them were ready to switch loyalties. Of the 13, eleven were present at a press conference barring two — Dakha MLA HS Phoolka as he was in Delhi and Baljinder Kaur, MLA from Talwandi Sabo, who was busy campaigning in Bathinda where she has been fielded by the party.

Congress workers privy to the development say Garhshankar MLA Jaikrishan Singh Rori and Rupnagar legislator Amarjit Singh Sandoa had been approached by some party leaders to bolster the prospects of Anandpur Sahib candidate Manish Tewari and were expected to join on Monday when chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh will be accompanying Tewari for filing of nomination papers.

But both Rori and Sandoa were present at the unity show and accused the Congress of spreading canards. “There is no question of any of us defecting to the Congress. We were elected as AAP nominees and will remain so,” said Rori, who had briefly joined hands with the Khaira camp.

Sunam legislator Aman Arora said the Congress has tried to poach every MLA in AAP. “The ruling party has a two-thirds majority in the 78-member House. Yet, it wants to poach members of other parties. Every day, they are dropping names of our MLAs who may join them. The Congress is not looking sure-footed and is trying to undermine AAP’s prospects in Lok Sabha polls,” he said.

Two AAP MLAs from Sangrur parliamentary seat — Pirmal Singh from Bhadaur and Kulwant Singh Pandori from Mehal Kalan — too are learnt to be in talks with the Congress but both denied the possibility of defection. Part of the rebel faction, Pirmal said the Congress has approached him and some other AAP MLAs. “But I am firmly with Khaira and support his ideology. We want the AAP to change, and not change our party,” Pirmal said.

Pandori, who was part of at 11 MLAs at the photo-op, said: “I have not thought of dumping my party. All this only betrays the nervousness of the Congress,” he added. Former MLA Kewal Dhillon, an Amarinder loyalist, is Congress candidate from Sangrur.

The defections being engineered by the ruling party has left its own MLAs fuming. “The fight of Congress is with the Akalis. If the count of AAP goes down, the Akali Dal will emerge as the official opposition in the state assembly. It is already looking like the main opposition. Are we resurrecting the Akalis? The party cadre from Mansa was missing during filing of nomination by Amrinder Singh Raja Warring at Bathinda. What has been the good of Manshahia joining us? He had no AAP cadre with him. Now, even the Congress cadre of Mansa is unhappy,” a Congress MLA said, requesting anonymity.

First Published: Apr 27, 2019 22:20 IST