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Another MLA joins Punjab AAP rebel camp, tally reaches eight

Updated on Aug 07, 2018 09:16 AM IST

Kanwar Sandhu claimed that three to four other MLAs wanted to join their group but were being stopped by people such as Durgesh Pathak who were responsible for the party’s defeat in the state elections.

Garhshankar MLA Jai Krishan Singh Rodi (right) with AAP legislators Sukhpal Khaira and Kanwar Sandhu at a press conference in Chandigarh on Monday.(HT Photo)
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh | By, Chandigarh

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) rebels led by sacked leader of opposition (LoP) Sukhpal Singh Khaira got a shot in the arm on Monday with one more party MLA joining their ranks.

Garhshankar legislator Jai Krishan Singh Rodi announced his support to the dissident group, accusing the party’s central leadership of lending an ear to backbiters and neglecting the voice of the state leaders. His support has taken the tally of MLAs in the rebel camp to eight of a total of 20 party legislators in Punjab.

Besides Khaira, the other dissident MLAs are Kanwar Sandhu (Kharar), Nazar Singh Manshahia (Mansa), Jagtar Singh Hissowal (Raikot), Jagdev Singh Kamalu (Maur), Pirmal Singh (Bhadaur) and Master Baldev Singh (Jaitu).

The Garhshankar MLA was among the eight party legislators who spoke out in support of Khaira on July 26 after his unceremonious removal from the post of leader of opposition in the assembly, but he was missing from the volunteers’ convention held by the dissident camp in Bathinda in which they declared the state unit “autonomous”.

‘Khaira group will not break AAP’

Rodi, who had rejoined the group, said he was assured by Khaira and other legislators that they will not break the AAP or join any other party.

“I am a fan of Arvind Kejriwal (AAP national convener and Delhi chief minister) and his ideals, but the problem is our voice is not being heard. Durgesh Pathak and Garry Birring should not take decisions related to the Punjab unit,” he told reporters at a press conference in presence of Khaira, Sandhu and some other party leaders.

Pathak is member of AAP’s political affairs committee whereas Birring is in-charge of organisation building in the state unit.

Rodi said he, along with some other MLAs, had tried to resolve the crisis by facilitating talks but their efforts did not yield any result. “Kejriwal either does not want to hear our voice or the mediators are not presenting the true picture to him. Sisodia (Delhi deputy CM Manish) also did not listen to us but only gave assurance that everything will be okay,” he said on being asked whether the national convener was aware of the happenings in the state unit.

3-4 being stopped from joining:Sandhu

Reiterating that Kejriwal and Sisodia were still their leaders, Sandhu claimed that three to four other MLAs wanted to join their group but were being stopped by people such as Pathak who were responsible for the party’s defeat in the state elections. He said they had got “unconfirmed” information from some volunteers that (Sangrur MP) Bhagwant Mann was also among those who were trying to stop legislators from joining them. Khaira said their fight was not for any individual or position, but for the state unit’s autonomy and the interests of Punjab. “Punjabis want to have the right to take their decisions in the party. The days of decisions being imposed are gone,” he insisted.

He announced that the first district-level volunteers’ convention will be organised in the Garhshankar constituency on August 11.

The dissident group has also announced a conference at Isru village in Ludhiana to pay homage to Shaheed Karnail Singh Isru on August 15 and a volunteers’ meet in Gurdaspur on August 26. The strategy appears to be to match the AAP leadership event for event as the state unit co-president Balbir Singh had on Saturday made public the party’s plan to hold a conference at Isru and another meeting at Baba Bakala on ‘Rakkhad Punya’ on August 26.

Later, Khaira also claimed that talks were on between the Congress and the AAP for seat-sharing for the 2019 parliamentary polls with former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh playing an active role.

“The AAP may be given one or two seats with the Congress contesting the rest. I have confirmed information on this,” he claimed. Last week, AAP leader and new leader of opposition Harpal Singh Cheema had categorically denied any talk of alliance between the two parties.

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