AAP rebels name Khaira as ‘interim chief’, leader of Opposition Cheema replaces chief whipUpdated: Aug 21, 2018 10:48 IST
A day after AAP national convener Arvind Kejriwal made the long-awaited visit to Punjab, the ongoing war in the faction-ridden state unit escalated on Monday with both the party leadership and dissidents hardening their positions.
The rebel camp named Bholath MLA Sukhpal Khaira as ‘interim president’ of the state unit whereas newly appointed leader of opposition (LoP) Harpal Singh Cheema replaced chief whip and one of the two whips of the legislature party in the state assembly. Kotkapura MLA Kultar Singh Sandhwan has been appointed as chief whip in place of Mansa MLA Nazar Singh Manshahia. Rupnagar MLA Amarjit Sandoa has been made whip in place of Bhadaur MLA Pirmal Singh.
Both Manshahia and Khalsa belong to the Khaira-led dissident group. Calling his removal “wrong”, Manshahia said the move was not for unity, but towards a split. “No one from the party spoke to me before doing this,” he said.
Bathinda (Rural) MLA Rupinder Singh Ruby, who is loyal to Delhi leadership, has been retained as whip. “We have informed the assembly speaker about these changes. The meeting of the legislature party has been convened on Wednesday,” said Cheema. The three-day monsoon session of the state assembly will start on August 24.
While these changes were expected, the announcement came hours after the rebel camp, which has support of eight of the 20 party MLAs, named Khaira as ‘interim president” of the state party. Monday’s developments are a serious setback to efforts being made for a rapprochement between the two sides that Kejriwal talked about a day ago.
The faction-ridden state unit has been in turmoil since the party’s below-par performance in the assembly polls, but the feud came to a boil after Khaira’s removal and the dissidents staged a revolt demanding “autonomy” for the state unit.
Dissident MLA Kanwar Sandhu said Khaira’s appointment was decided the ‘ad-hoc political affairs committee’. “We will also constitute the state executive and name district presidents soon,” he said. He said they (dissidents) were open to dialogue, but not ready to compromise on resolutions passed at their volunteers’ convention in Bathinda. Rejecting Khaira’s appointment, Cheema termed it as anti-party activity.
“Is this is the khudmukhtyari (autonomy) they wanted?” he asked. AAP state co-president Balbir Singh said the party had taken a conciliatory approach but they were escalating matters. Earlier, Khaira announced a protest outside a sugar mill in Morinda on September 5 against ₹750-crore sugarcane arrears to farmers.