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AAP Punjab headed for a split? Seven dissident leaders declare ‘autonomous unit’

Following days of acrimony with AAP central leaders, Sukhpal Khaira announced that he and six other party MLAs were now part of an “autonomous unit” in Punjab.

punjab Updated: Aug 03, 2018 09:28 IST
Vishal Rambani
Vishal Rambani
Hindustan Times, Patiala
AAP Punjab,AAP,Arvind Kejriwal
AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal at a public rally at Sakatri Bagh, Amritsar. (Gurpreet Singh/HT File Photo)

A little over a year after it mounted a challenge against the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiromani Akali Dal combine and the Congress in the Punjab assembly elections, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on Thursday faced a virtual split in a state that it had hoped would be its second frontier after Delhi.

Following days of acrimony with central leaders, including Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and deputy CM Manish Sidodia, the leader of opposition in the Punjab assembly Sukhpal Khaira announced that he and six other party MLAs were now part of an “autonomous unit”. Khaira also dissolved all party structures in Punjab and rejected the newly-appointed leader of opposition Harpal Singh Cheema as AAP head in assembly.

Amid slogans of “Aam Aadmi Party zindabad” at a well-attended volunteers’ rally, the dissident MLAs described Kejriwal and Sisodia as “dictatorial” and “anti-Punjab”. They said they would take all decisions according to wishes of local volunteers, but stopped short of announcing a new unit to avoid action against under the anti-defection law.

The AAP has 20 MLAs in the 117-member Punjab assembly.

Two MLAs Rupinder Kaur Ruby and Jaikrishan Rori, who had sided with Khaira earlier, switched loyalties and went with the high command as Kejriwal met with 11 MLAs in Delhi.

Out of total four Lok Sabha MPs of party from Punjab, two have already rebelled. “They said that I upped ante to get the post of leader of opposition. Let me announce that I won’t take the post even if Kejriwal offers it on a platter. I am fighting for Punjab and can sacrifices many such post for safeguards of AAP volunteers...,” Khaira said at the rally. “Sisodia told me that I have lost faith of Leadership. But I told them Delhiwalla have lost of faith of entire Punjab,” he added.

Dissident AAP MLAs at a convention against the removal of Sukhpal Khaira as leader of opposition in Punjab Vidhan Sabha, in Bathinda on Thursday. (Sanjeev Kumar/HT Photo)

The AAP leadership had summoned all Punjab MLAs to Delhi on Thursday to indicate that they were not with Khaira’s “anti-party” move. At least 11 of them came to the capital. With its Punjab unit facing a crisis, the AAP on Tuesday blamed the RSS, Shiromani Akali Dal, Bharatiya Janata Party and the Bains brothers for trying to split the party.

AAP state unit co-president Balbir Singh said the MLAs and other leaders who attended the Bathinda convention were “misguided”.

First Published: Aug 03, 2018 09:28 IST