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Round 1 goes to Kejriwal, party not to act against rebels for now

Balbir Singh and Cheema say efforts will be made to bring around MLAs and other leaders who attended the Bathinda convention

punjab Updated: Aug 03, 2018 09:31 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan TImes, Chandigarh
Party workers holding a banner in support of Sukhpal Singh Khaira during the convention in Bathinda. (Bharat Bhushan/ht)

After making sure that most MLAs kept away from Bholath MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira’s convention in Bathinda, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on Thursday decided not to take any immediate disciplinary action against the seven dissident legislators who attended the event.

Stating this, Punjab AAP state co-president Dr Balbir Singh and leader of opposition Harpal Singh Cheema said the state leaders have requested the central leadership not to initiate disciplinary proceedings against them. “We have said that efforts will be made to bring around the MLAs and other leaders who attended the Bathinda meet,” the two leaders said after a luncheon meeting with AAP national convener and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal.

Besides Khaira and a few party office-bearers, six MLAs, including Kanwar Sandhu (Kharar), Nazar Singh Manshahia (Mansa), Jagdev Singh Kamalu (Maur), Pirmal Singh (Bhadaur), Jagtar Singh Hissowal (Raikot) and Master Baldev Singh (Jaitu) attended the Bathinda event in which speeches targeting the party’s top leadership and its decisions were made. The central leadership had declared the volunteers’ convention announced by Khaira after he was fired by the party from the post of leader of opposition in the state assembly as anti-party.

13 mlas showed up for kejriwal’s meet

While the rebel camp went ahead with the meet, claiming that 12-13 party legislators had confirmed their participation, Kejriwal also called a meeting of party legislators in Delhi on Thursday to counter their convention. Despite denying any info about the meeting with the party supremo initially, 13 of the 20 party MLAs, Dr Balbir Singh and Faridkot MP Sadhu Singh reached the national capital and met him.

Their common refrain was that they were all in Delhi to visit ailing Sangrur MP Bhagwant Mann and had an impromptu interaction with the national convener.

Cheema, whose appointment in place of Khaira triggered the crisis, later said they would talk the disgruntled legislators and volunteers to bring them back. “We have sensible people such as Kanwar Sandhu. There should not be much difficulty. After all, we are all well-wishers of Punjab and will fight for the cause of the state together,” he told HT. Asked how he plans to lead the squabbling MLAs in the upcoming monsoon session, Cheema said he would call a meeting of the AAP legislature party soon to draw a strategy for raising issues of public interest in the state assembly. The session is likely in the third week of August.

‘Dissident legislators a misguided lot’

Dr Balbir Singh said the MLAs and leaders who attended the Bathinda event were “misguided” and hoped that they would fall in party line in coming days to strengthen the AAP. “Woh band gali mein wad gaye han (They are marching on the road that leads to nowhere),” he said, adding: “Holding a convention under the AAP banner without consulting the state and central leadership is illegal and the leaders must avoid such activities in future.”

The state unit co-president said not only the turnout at the convention was less than expected despite efforts made by the Akali-BJP-RSS combine and Bains brothers, their claims that 14 MLAs would attend the event also fell flat. He has called a meeting of the state committee comprising district and block presidents on Saturday. Delhi deputy CM and Punjab affairs in-charge Manish Sisodia will also be Punjab on August 13 to meet the office-bearers and discuss the strategy for panchayat and zila parishad elections.

First Published: Aug 03, 2018 09:31 IST