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Referendum remark row: Kejriwal refuses to meet Khaira, Sisodia ticks him off

The controversy over the two-time MLA’s statement has not just embarrassed the AAP, but also revived memories of the party’s dalliance with radicals in the run-up to the state assembly polls last year that had hit its prospects.

punjab Updated: Jun 21, 2018 08:55 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Referendum remark row,Aam Aadmi Party,Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal
Sukhpal Singh Khaira (HT File)

Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) national convener and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal snubbed leader of opposition in Punjab assembly Sukhpal Singh Khaira on Wednesday over his alleged support to Referendum 2020 – a movement initiated by US-based advocacy group Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) for a separate Sikh state.

Kejriwal refused to meet Khaira who was in Delhi, along with a group of Punjab MLAs, to express solidarity with the party leaders for their nine-day sit-in protest against the city’s lieutenant governor and IAS officers, said a party leader who did not want to be named.

Khaira, whose purported statement on the divisive campaign has left the party leadership red-faced, then met deputy chief minister and the party’s Punjab affairs in-charge Manish Sisodia who gave a piece of his mind to him.

“Sisodia lashed out at Khaira while telling him that AAP has nothing to do with his referendum thoughts. He has been asked to explain his stand through the state unit president of the party,” said the AAP leader.

However, Khaira denied rebuff from the party leadership or receiving any notice from them on the controversy. “I debunk all canards and falsehood that Kejriwal refused to meet us. He has cancelled all appointments for being unwell, we met Mr Sisodia Dy CM at 11.30 am today n discussed party affairs in a cordial manner (sic),” he tweeted. Mansa MLA Nazar Singh Manshahia said Khaira, along with eight other MLAs, met Sisodia and clarified his position.

The controversy over the two-time MLA’s statement has not just embarrassed the AAP, but also revived memories of the party’s dalliance with radicals in the run-up to the state assembly polls last year that had hit its prospects.

While Khaira was under intense fire from the Congress, Shiromani Akali Dal and the Bharatiya Janata Party for his remarks, Punjab unit co-president Balbir Singh and some other party leaders also immediately distanced themselves from it, seeking action against him. The Bholath MLA has repeatedly denied having supported the campaign, but the controversy refuses to die down.

Khaira, whose relations with the Delhi leadership strained after he publicly spoke out against Kejriwal for tendering apology to Akali leader Bikram Majitha in a defamation case, was hoping to mend fences, but things did not pan out as planned. Punjab Congress president Sunil Jakhar hit out at Kejriwal for failing to act against Khaira.

“Leader of your own legislative party in Punjab Sukhpal Khaira flagrantly supports secessionist demands and your idea of stringent action is refusing to meet him? Please don’t fool Punjab by excusing yourself from accountability,” he tweeted.

(with agency inputs)

First Published: Jun 21, 2018 08:51 IST