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Divided house: Rift within leaves AAP bruised before Punjab budget session

Only a week ago, the AAP was preparing to launch a blistering attack on the Captain Amarinder Singh-led Congress government for failing to fulfil its election promises.

punjab Updated: Mar 19, 2018 23:05 IST
Navneet Sharma
Navneet Sharma
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
AAP leader Sukhpal Singh Khaira (left), MLA Aman Arora (centre), and MLA Kanwar Sandhu at the AAP Punjab MLAs meeting in Chandigarh on Friday.(Keshav Singh/HT)

The discord in the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Punjab over its national convener Arvind Kejriwal’s apology to Akali leader Bikram Singh Majithia has come as a setback for the party just before the budget session.

Only a week ago, the AAP was preparing to launch a blistering attack on the Captain Amarinder Singh-led Congress government for failing to fulfil its election promises. AAP MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira, the leader of opposition in the Punjab assembly, who had effectively led the charge on the government during the winter session, announced plans to bring out an “extensive chargesheet” against the state government, listing its failures, and then go after it with all guns blazing during the budget session.

But before the AAP and its firebrand leader could thrum into top gear, the news of Kejriwal’s apology to Majithia in a defamation case came out. All hell broke loose and furious MLAs, worried about the political implications of their chief’s act, revolted against the leadership, threatening to split the party.

Though the break-up threat fizzled out after 10 of the 20 MLAs met Kejriwal on Sunday and endorsed his rationale behind the apology, the party’s script to take on the Amarinder government seems to have gone haywire. As planned, Khaira and others released the “chargesheet” on Friday, accusing the state government of corruption, betraying the farmers on debt waiver, failure to curb mining mafia, going soft on the Badal family and its over-dependence on babus.

It got lost in brouhaha over the apology, with hardly anyone taking note of the principal opposition party’s charges against the Congress government on completion of one year. Khaira held a meeting of the AAP legislature party to discuss their strategy in the budget session commencing Tuesday. Though he full-throatedly voices his views after such meetings, the firebrand leader was not in his element this time, making do with a brief press note after the meeting.

While both sides maintained uneasy silence on the apology episode throughout the day, last week’s dramatic developments appear to have deepened the distrust among some prominent leaders that will be hard to bridge. There have already been worries in the party on account of lack of cohesion among its leaders and the present situation does not augur well.

However, Punjab AAP co-president Aman Arora said any difference of opinion on the apology issue was a matter within the party. “It will have no bearing on the MLAs’ performance in the state assembly. We will raise issues of people and take on the government,” he said. Also, the two-member Lok Insaaf Party (LIP), its pre-poll alliance partner, has snapped its ties with the AAP on the apology issue.

First Published: Mar 19, 2018 22:57 IST