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Thursday, Oct 17, 2019

Sukhpal Khaira gets legal reprieve, but no respite for AAP from bickering

Besieged: Infighting in party appears set to escalate with leader of Opposition demanding action against party MLAs who asked for his resignation; sources say he has called a meeting of party MLAs in Chandigarh today

punjab Updated: Nov 07, 2017 11:18 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Sukhpal Khaira and Himmat Singh Shergill.
Sukhpal Khaira and Himmat Singh Shergill. (HT Photo)

The infighting in the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) appears set to escalate with Sukhpal Singh Khaira demanding action against party MLAs and others who asked for his resignation as the leader of Opposition after a Fazilka court issued non-bailable warrants against him in a drug smuggling case.

Khaira said the AAP leaders screaming for his resignation from their rooftops played a nefarious role in conspiracy with the ruling Congress.

“These opportunists are weakening the party. After the court issued summons, all my opponents joined hands, but I did not expect some of my colleagues in the AAP to get greedy or play in the hands of rival parties. It is a case of vendetta. Instead of protecting me, they are conniving with the opponents,” the Bholath MLA said after the Punjab and Haryana high court stayed the non-bailable warrants on Monday.

Meanwhile, sources said Khaira has called a meeting of party MLAs in Chandigarh on Tuesday.

State unit split over the issue

The state unit is split over his continuation as the leader of Opposition after the controversy. Though state unit president Bhagwant Mann and several other leaders issued a statement last week in his support, a section of the party, including some MLAs, sought his resignation on moral grounds.

Talwandi Sabo MLA Baljinder Kaur, who publicly made the demand, is sticking to her guns. “I raised the issue because it is a matter of party ideology. I don’t have any personal enmity with him,” she said. AAP co-president Aman Arora had also spoken about differences of opinion within the party over his continuation as the leader of Opposition.

Khaira digs in his heels

Reacting to demands for his resignation by rival parties and from within the AAP, Khaira has dug in his heels.

“Why should I resign just because I have been summoned? Summoning is no stage for tendering resignation. Did these same people ask Capt Amarinder Singh and the Badals to resign when they faced cases?” he asked.

He said the AAP was defending Delhi minister Satyendra Jain, being investigated by the CBI and ED, describing the cases as vendetta by Modi. “This is double vendetta against me here by both the Congress and the SAD,” he added.

The AAP circles are also buzzing with talk that the demand for his resignation could be an attempt of some central leaders of the party to settle scores with him. The voluble state leader had blamed the central leadership for the party’s defeat in the assembly elections.

Asked about Khaira’s demand for action against the party leaders, including some MLAs, who demanded his resignation, Arora said the state unit had not received their names from him.

‘Will not tolerate any indiscipline’

The party will not tolerate any indiscipline. Appropriate action will be taken. He (Khaira) has got partial relief. I am hopeful that he will come out clean,” he said. The differences in the state party leadership came to the fore when party leader Himmat Singh Shergill told a TV news channel on Sunday that if he were in Khaira’s place, he would have resigned.

However, he posted a video on Facebook on Monday, saying that he hadn’t asked for Khaira’s resignation. “We are with him,” he said, offering legal help.

The first AAP leader to make the resignation demand was Capt Bikramjit Singh Povindia, a former convener of the ex-servicemen wing of the party. “Why can’t he (Khaira) step down? We can’t wish away our responsibility simply by declaring this to be politically motivated,” he wrote to party convener Arvind Kejriwal last week.

The AAP has been plagued by infighting that intensified after its dismal showing in the Gurdaspur Lok Sabha byelection last month.

Kejriwal and other party bigwigs have asked the state leaders to bury their differences and work together, but their advice has not worked so far. Meanwhile, AAP’s Faridkot MP Sadhu Singh slammed the party MLAs for not supporting Khaira over the issue.

Talking to the media in Faridkot, he said when national leadership of the party cleared backed Khaira, there is no point in asking for his resignation.

First Published: Nov 06, 2017 12:52 IST

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