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Delhi or Chandigarh? Kejriwal’s invite underlines divide

The AAP central leadership on Saturday evening made calls to invite most of the Punjab MLAs to Delhi.

punjab Updated: Mar 18, 2018 09:44 IST
Ravinder Vasudeva
Ravinder Vasudeva
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Arvind Kejriwal,Kejriwal apology,Punjab AAP
The AAP has invited its Punjab MLAs for a meeting with convener Arvind Kejriwal in Delhi on Sunday.(HT File)

The invitation by Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) central leadership to its Punjab unit leaders and MLAs for a meeting with convener Arvind Kejriwal in Delhi on Sunday has ended up highlighting a divide over his apology to Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader Bikram Singh Majithia in a defamation case. Most of the 20 MLAs of the party, which is the main opposition in the state assembly of 117, have decided that the “high command” should instead come to Chandigarh to explain his position.

Among those not going are senior leaders such as Sukhpal Singh Khaira, who is leader of opposition in the assembly, and MLAs Kanwar Sandhu, HS Phoolka and Nazar Singh Manshahia. “Why we should go ? Galti vi oho karan, te bulaan vi sanu Delhi nu? (First they make the mistake and now want us to visit them in Delhi!). Most of us are not going,” said Khaira.

However, three of the legislators, Amarjit Singh Sandoa, Baljinder Kaur and Kultar Singh Sandhwan, met Kejriwal in Delhi on Saturday. “He told us that he is tendering apologies in all defamation cases, including the one filed by Union finance minister Arun Jaitley, because he thinks fighting these cases is a waste of time and needs huge amount of money as lawyers’ fee,” said Sandhwan. These three were among the seven MLAs who did not participate in a meeting on Friday evening where the other 13 decided against going to Delhi, it is learnt. Others absent were Aman Arora, Sarvjeet Kaur Manuke, Harpal Singh Cheema and Phoolka.

‘Larger sentiment’

While Phoolka too said he is not going owing to a private engagement in Bathinda, Manuke and Cheema could not be contacted immediately.

Arora said he will attend the Delhi meeting “so as to know what pushed our national chief to tender an apology”. “Let him explain. Only then can we draw any inference,” said Arora, who resigned as co-president of the state unit in protest against Kejriwal’s apology. But Sandhu said he was hopeful Arora would also not go: “I had a word with him on Friday evening and he was also of the opinion that the high command should come to the MLAs to explain its position.” Manshahia too said the leadership should respect the larger sentiment and hold a meeting in Chandigarh.

Mann says no harm

Amid this, Sangrur MP Bhagwant Mann, who resigned as state unit president in protest on Friday, is of the opinion that there is “no harm” in meeting Kejriwal in Delhi. “We should at least listen to what he has to say about reasons behind his apology,” he said.

The central leadership on Saturday evening made calls to invite most of the MLAs to Delhi for what is being seen as a show of strength in favour of Kejriwal. Delhi deputy CM and the party’s Punjab affairs in-charge, Manish Sisodia, pointedly invited all MLAs and other senior leaders for the meeting.

Sandhwan claimed, “By Sunday morning you will see that all MLAs, barring six or seven, will be ready to meet Kejriwal in Delhi.”

First Published: Mar 17, 2018 22:37 IST