AAP’s Khaira meets Cong’s Kishor, sets off ‘homecoming’ rumours
Less than a year after leaving the Congress, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Sukhpal Khaira is learnt to have met the party’s poll strategist Prashant Kishor at Chandigarh last week. The meeting has set the rumour mills abuzz that the former MLA is hoping to return to the Congress fold at a time when the AAP has already announced Khaira as its candidate from Bholath.punjab Updated: Nov 24, 2016 11:07 IST
Less than a year after leaving the Congress, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Sukhpal Khaira is learnt to have met the party’s poll strategist Prashant Kishor at Chandigarh last week. The meeting has set the rumour mills abuzz that the former MLA is hoping to return to the Congress fold at a time when the AAP has already announced Khaira as its candidate from Bholath.
Sources close to Kishor said the two are expected to meet again. Khaira, who denied having met Kishor, had joined the AAP in December last year, soon after Captain Amarinder Singh had returned as Punjab Congress president. The two were not on the best of terms during Amarinder’s previous stint. Though Khaira had been able to gain the confidence of Partap Singh Bajwa when he had replaced Amarinder as state unit chief, the two soon fell out and Bajwa had then described Khaira as a “misguided missile”.
Seen as a one-man army in the Congress for launching attacks on the Punjab government through access to government files and officialdom, Khaira went to the AAP hoping to emerge as its face at a time the rookie party was battling a leadership crisis. But, according to sources, he is feeling “out in the cold” now.
“It is AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal’s core team from Delhi that is still calling the shots in Punjab. State leaders such as Khaira, Kanwar Sandhu and HS Phoolka have been pushed to the fringes,” said sources close to the leader. “AAP has appointed Gurpreet Ghuggi as the state convener but he has no powers, just as Sucha Singh Chhottepur before him did not. Khaira was made part of the state election and campaign committee, but decisions on candidates and campaign are taken unilaterally by the Delhi team,” the sources said.
Though Khaira has just a maiden assembly victory to his credit, the media-savvy former MLA has not been seen speaking at the AAP’s press conferences too. In Congress, he paralleled state chief in issuing statements, but the AAP did not offer him that privilege.
Khaira, when contacted, dismissed talk of a meeting as baseless speculation. “There is not even an iota of truth in it. I had left the Congress after due diligence and introspection. I am not willing to return to it,” he said.
Khaira, who had shot to fame for taking on his bitter political rival, Jagir Kaur, who defeated him at Bholath in 2012, had blamed deputy chief minister and SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal for trying to “sabotage” his entry to the AAP through a “false drug case”. Many in the Congress are already sore at the influx of “turncoats” to claim tickets, and any “homecoming” by those like Khaira may cause further heartburn.