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High drama at presser as Khaira, Balbir spar over referendum remark

The press meet, called to flay attack on AAP MLA, descends into total chaos as the two leaders argue with each other

punjab Updated: Jun 21, 2018 23:33 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Punjab Aam Aadmi Party,Balbir Singh,Sukhpal Khaira
Sukhpal Khaira (HT File)

In more embarrassment for the infighting-ridden party, Punjab Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) state co-president Balbir Singh and leader of opposition in assembly Sukhpal Khaira locked horns again on Thursday over the referendum row.

Balbir and Khaira, who came together to address a hurriedly-convened press conference to condemn the attack on the party MLA from Rupnagar by mining mafia, argued with each other over the former’s statement that he (Khaira) did not clarify his position to the state unit. The press meet descended into total chaos when a party MLA told the media to desist from asking questions that created rift in the party.

After the controversy over Khaira’s purported statement in support of Referendum 2020 broke out last week, Balbir, who looks after the organisational affairs, said the party will take action against him.

When Khaira, who denied having made such a statement, said no one from the party sought clarification from him before talking of initiating action, Balbir tweeted that he had called Khaira on his personal mobile number five times. The two leaders have not been on best of terms with each other and their unease was palpable at the press conference.

Trouble began when Balbir was asked about his tweet that Khaira did not respond to his calls or clarify his position to the state unit after the controversy broke out. When the state unit co-president said that whatever he stated was factually correct, Khaira rebutted his claim. “It may sound bad, but I must say that he should not have put all that on social media. He is factually absolutely incorrect. There was one missed call on June 15 and then I got a bulk message that we all have to go to Delhi on 17th. I thought there was no need to call back after the message,” said the Bholath MLA.

Balbir insisted that he did make the calls, taking out his mobile phone. Before he could show the call list to everyone, Kotkapura MLA Kultar Singh Sandhwan interjected, telling the reporters to desist from asking such queries. “Talk about Punjab. Why are you asking questions that create problems among us,” he said.

His remarks triggered protest by angry reporters who threatened to boycott the press conference.

Even as Kharar MLA Kanwar Sandhu, a former journalist himself, and others tried to calm things down, the argument continued for a few minutes. While Khaira apologised for the remarks of his colleague, Sandhwan stood his ground, saying that there was no need to say sorry.

Later, Balbir was also asked about the demand of the party’s NRI supporters for his removal, but he said the party high command would look into it.

First Published: Jun 21, 2018 23:32 IST