Setback for AAP: Punjabi NRIs sever ties, back rebels

Announcing the snapping of ties, these office-bearers, mostly from the US, accused the party’s national leadership of dissolving all NRI chapters through a ‘generic email and a group WhatsApp message’.

punjab Updated: Sep 06, 2018 09:40 IST
Navneet Sharma
Navneet Sharma
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
AAP,Punjabi,Punjabi NRIs
The AAP, born out of an anti-corruption crusade that social activist Anna Hazare started, had found traction among NRIs in a dozen countries worldwide from the outset. Punjabis had emerged as mainstay of their support base. (HT File )

The factional feud in the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has reached overseas with several Punjabi non-resident Indians (NRIs) associated with the party taking on the central leadership over its decision to dissolve all its organisational units outside the country.

A number of former NRI office-bearers of AAP units in the US, Canada, New Zealand, Italy, Spain, Germany and some other countries, on Wednesday, severed their ties with the AAP for disbanding the overseas units. They have thrown in their lot with the party’s rebel Bholath MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira and his group.

‘AAP adopted use-and-throw policy’

“Like other political parties, the AAP has also adopted a use-and-throw policy. No one initiated a dialogue or informed the NRIs about breaking up of the overseas organisational structure,” reads a joint signed statement that 43 former office-bearers of party chapters in these countries have issued.

Announcing the snapping of ties, these office-bearers, mostly from the US, accused the party’s national leadership of dissolving all NRI chapters through a ‘generic email and a group WhatsApp message’. They added that this was just the way Khaira was removed from the post of the leader of opposition (LoP) in the state assembly in Punjab six weeks ago.

“We had sent an email to the party on March 26, 2018, that we will like to directly work with the Punjab leadership. It responded that any attempt to bypass the process for this will be treated as anti-party activity and suitable action will be necessitated,” they said. Reddy had been appointed to the post last month.

Punjabis mainstay of NRI support base

The AAP, born out of an anti-corruption crusade that social activist Anna Hazare started, had found traction among NRIs in a dozen countries worldwide from the outset. Punjabis had emerged as mainstay of their support base.

They not only generously contributed funds to the fledgling party, but also gave a huge fillip to its campaign by making lakhs of calls to voters during elections in Delhi, Punjab and Goa.

“All units worked hard. Many units raised more than $200,000. People used to stay awake all night to make calls for votes,” said the former office-bearers in a statement. About 15-20% of the party’s election funds came from volunteers abroad.

In the ongoing fight for control of the state unit in Punjab, both pro-Delhi leaders and the Khaira faction made efforts to keep the NRIs on their side. Many of them have openly backed the dissident camp by supporting their

rallies in Bathinda and other districts. “We will continue to support them,” said the former office-bearers. Of the 20 AAP legislators in Punjab, eight are with the dissident camp that staged a revolt against the party’s central leadership after Khaira was removed as the LoP.

‘Revamp needed before LS, Delhi polls’

AAP overseas convener Prithvi Reddy, who was appointed last month, said the organisational structure was being revamped in the larger interest of the party.

“The party took the decision on Saturday in consultation with the Political Affairs Committee (PAC) on my recommendation. We have got feedback from 60,000 volunteers and most of them favoured the revamp,” he told HT.

He added that the party had a loosely organised structure that needed to be fixed before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and the Delhi polls in 2020 to be followed by Punjab polls in 2022.

On the ongoing factional feud and Punjabi NRIs’ strong reaction to dissolution, he said: “I am minimally involved in Punjab. The decision is based on what is correct, not who is correct. We are a new party and there may be disagreements, but we need to build it for the long run. Anyone can read it (disbanding) the way they want. We are a party that is much beyond Punjab”.

Reddy said he would travel to these countries to meet party volunteers and the new organisational set-up would be announced in a couple of months.

Reacting to the NRIs’ statement, Khaira said Punjabis abroad had been mainly supporting Kejriwal, but the party assumed a dictatorial stance, instead of listening to them.

“The Delhi leadership showed no democratic values while dealing with the Punjabi diaspora. These people had supported the AAP with huge amount of funds, but the party refused to listen to their grievances. Their grouses are genuine and they are on the right path,” he said.

First Published: Sep 06, 2018 09:38 IST