Bathinda convention today: It’s Sukhpal Khaira versus Arvind Kejriwal

The sudden dash of party MLAs to Delhi reflects the seriousness with which the party has taken the rebel camp’s meeting.

punjab Updated: Aug 02, 2018 09:25 IST
Navneet Sharma
Navneet Sharma
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Bathinda convention,Sukhpal Khaira,Arvind Kejriwal
Sukhpal Singh Khaira and Arvind Kejriwal (HT File )

In what could be make-or-break for Bholath legislator Sukhpal Singh Khaira, all eyes are on the ‘volunteers’ convention’ being organised by the dissident MLAs of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Bathinda on August 2 in total defiance of the party leadership.

While the Khaira-led dissident group has gone all out to muster support of party legislators, office-bearers and volunteers for the event being touted as its “show of strength”, AAP national convener and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal has also reportedly called party MLAs to the national capital on Thursday.

However, new leader of opposition (LoP) Harpal Singh Cheema, whose appointment in place of Khaira triggered the crisis, denied that the party leadership had called any MLA to Delhi. “I am in Delhi to meet (Sangrur MP) Bhagwant Mann who is hospitalised,” he told HT late night.

HT spoke to three other MLAs who all said that they will be Delhi tomorrow to visit ailing Mann.

The sudden dash of party MLAs to Delhi reflects the seriousness with which the party has taken the rebel camp’s meeting. Khaira had announced the convention after he was fired from the post of LoP last week. Sisodia declared it an “anti-party activity” without wasting much time, warning of action against MLAs attending the Bathinda meet.

However, Khaira and his supporters, decided to go ahead with the convention. The real test for former LOP lies in his ability to draw the party MLAs to the event as it will have a huge bearing on the fate of the dissident camp and the party in the state.

Khaira had paraded eight MLAs on the day he spoke out against his sacking. On Tuesday, the group claimed to have confirmation from 12-13 party legislators that they would attend the meet, but the support claim has been disputed by both Cheema and state unit co-president Balbir Singh. The support of MLAs is most critical because if the dissident camp is able to draw 12-13 of them, it will get emboldened and push the envelope.

In case the number touches 14, it will have two-thirds of the total strength of 20– that’s what is required to form a separate unit without attracting the anti-defection law. Conversely, the party leadership could take decisive action against the dissident group members in case they fail to get support from MLAs.

However, there is not much clarity on which way most MLAs, except 5-6 involved in organising the event, are headed. Barring a few, the phones of most of them either remained switched off or they did not answer calls the whole day.

Both sides also levelled made allegations against each other. Harpal Cheema reiterated his charge that the convention was being “sponsored” by the SAD-BJP combine and Bains brothers at the instance of RSS. Khaira, on the other hand, alleged that a vicious campaign was being run to wreck the convention and intimidate the legislators. Former party convener Gurpreet Ghuggi also made an appeal to well-wishers of Punjab to support Khaira. However, he said he will not be able to attend the convention.

First Published: Aug 02, 2018 09:19 IST