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Punjab AAP disunity shows in House; rivals take digs at party MLAs

There was not only no cohesion between the MLAs loyality to the Delhi leaders and the rebel group on day two of the monsoon session, the two factions also displayed disinterest in most issues raised by each other.

punjab Updated: Aug 28, 2018 09:52 IST
Navneet Sharma
Navneet Sharma
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Punjab AAP,Punjab assembly,Punjab
Aam Aadmi Party legislator Sukhpal Singh Khaira, Lok Insaaf Party leader Simarjeet Singh Bains and others protesting outside the Punjab Vidhan Sabha in Chandigarh on Monday(HT Photo)

The rift in the state unit of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) again showed up in the Punjab assembly on Monday with party legislators virtually competing with each other.

There was not only no cohesion between the MLAs loyality to the Delhi leaders and the rebel group on day two of the monsoon session, the two factions also displayed disinterest in most issues raised by each other. The ruling Congress and others did not let go of the opportunity to take digs at them.

“Is there a split in the party?” asked parliamentary affairs minister Brahm Mohindra, urging speaker Rana KP Singh to take note.

Dakha MLA HS Phoolka, who has been trying his best to play the “peacemaker” between the two warring groups, was also seen fervently exhorting them to come together, but without any result.

AAP is the principal opposition party with 20 MLAs in the state assembly. While 12 of them led by leader of opposition (LOP) Harpal Singh Cheema are on one side, another eight led by Bholath MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira have revolted against the party’s central and state leadership. The rebel group had refused to sit together with Cheema and other MLAs to devise a joint strategy for the session.

The cleavage was evident as soon as the question hour got over and the speaker allowed Cheema to speak. As the LOP got up to raise an issue related to a heritage site in his district, Khaira and dissident group MLAs were already in the well of the House, raising slogans against the state government. They were seeking discussion on a House committee report on farmers’ suicide, Justice JS Narang Commission report on sand mining auctions and the fate of river waters resolution, but the speaker did not concede their demand.

While two MLAs of Lok Insaaf Party (LIP), one-time alliance partner of the AAP, joined them in the well, their party colleagues kept sitting in their seats.

AAP MLA Aman Arora (Sunam) got up to raise the issue of ordinance promulgated by the state government for death penalty for rape of a girl below 12 years of age and tried to draw attention towards two such heinous crimes. Phoolka also was seen speaking, but not much of what Arora and he said was audible in the din raised by the slogan-shouting dissident group.

A Congress MLA said as there was no coordination between the opposition AAP legislators, they should be sent out. Later, the Khaira group and LIP legislators staged a noisy walkout. As they were going out, Mohindra wanted to know from the speaker whether the leader of opposition (Cheema) was in minority. “What is the position? Please clarify,” the parliamentary affairs minister asked. To this, Rana KP said the majority of (AAP) members were with Cheema.

During a heated exchange between members on the treasury and opposition benches on the Congress role in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, Phoolka along with other MLAs was demanding that the decision to expunge the names of some Congress leaders from the proceedings should be rescinded. He pleaded with the dissident group members to support him, but none, except one, responded.

Dissident MLA’s sat in back rows

Earlier, Khaira and his supporters sat on back benches while the seats in the front row were taken by Cheema, Phoolka, Talwandi Sabo MLA Baljinder Kaur, Arora and legislature party deputy leader Sarbjit Kaur Manuke. “We are here to take up issues of people. We have no issue with sitting at the back. I will rather sit there than take a seat in front row while my colleagues are made to sit on backbenches,” he told HT.

The AAP MLAs had sparred over the seating plan on Friday. Khaira had expressed strong displeasure over the change in seating arrangement in which he and Kharar MLA Kanwar Sandhu were pushed to the back rows. Cheema later reverted to the original arrangement, but it did not help and the dissident group members, who have refused to accept him as head of the legislature party, sat in the last two rows.

First Published: Aug 28, 2018 09:52 IST