HT Analysis: As opposition leader, Sukhpal Khaira is bad news for both Congress, SAD | punjab | top | Hindustan Times
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HT Analysis: As opposition leader, Sukhpal Khaira is bad news for both Congress, SAD

Khaira’s appointment is good news for the AAP that is battling a credibility and leadership crisis in the state after losing the state polls.

punjab Updated: Jul 21, 2017 09:22 IST
Sukhdeep Kaur
Sukhpal Khaira protesting outside the Punjab assembly during the budget session last month.
Sukhpal Khaira protesting outside the Punjab assembly during the budget session last month. (HT Photo)

He is a man with many epithets in Punjab politics. Aam Aadmi Party’s Sukhpal Khaira, the state’s new leader of opposition, is known as a one-man demolition squad, a firebrand, abrasive, and even a misguided missile, as his attacks on the enemy camp can claim a casualty or two even within his own party.

The just-concluded budget session of the assembly was a trailer for the AAP that it needs to get its house in order as the main opposition party. It has not only to contend with the Congress that enjoys a brute majority and can literally flex its muscles if the need arises — AAP legislators were physically lifted out of the assembly by marshals in the last session — but also the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) that would lap up every opportunity to turn the tables on both the government and the AAP that has relegated it to the third slot in the House after it ruled the state for two back-to-back terms.

Khaira’s appointment is good news for the AAP that is battling a credibility and leadership crisis in the state after losing the state polls. With an “absentee” state chief in Bhagwant Mann, who also has the penchant for making headlines for the wrong reasons, the party needs a leader to launch no-holds-barred offensives against both Congress and the SAD-BJP.

It is Khaira’s courage to take on the might of the government that has won him the crown. With old scores to settle with the Congress, especially with power minister Rana Gurjit Singh whom he sees as the reason for his alienation by Captain Amarinder Singh’s camp, Khaira can do what he does best — blow the lid off major scandals through access to government files and officialdom.

Against SAD president Sukhbir Badal and his brother-in-law Bikram Singh Majithia, he has filed many court cases and they too had unleashed the full state force on him when in power by dragging his name in a drug scandal. But no corruption charge has come to stick on him so far. Also, adversity can make strange friends, and a thaw in their ties is already visible.

The media-savvy leader, who takes the crown for holding a large number of press conferences to make sensational disclosures or issuing statements, will now also have constitutional sanctity. He can be the crusader that the AAP needs for its cause in Punjab.

His over-activism can keep both rival parties on their toes while helping the fledgling party find its feet in the state assembly. He can finally take them on as the face of AAP and not a leader caught in a battle of one-upmanship with the high command’s choice — as was the case between Khaira and his predecessor HS Phoolka.

Resurrected after being left out in the cold first in the Congress and then in the AAP, Khaira will have to fight his own demons, though. His biggest challenge will be to emerge as a team leader. Will he be able to tame his love for publicity, both on the ground and on social media? Remember, not everything is news.