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Sukhpal Khaira, 8 AAP legislators raise a banner of revolt

Demand review of ‘undemocratic’ sacking decision, announce party volunteers’ convention at Bathinda on August 2 to decide future strategy.

punjab Updated: Jul 28, 2018 11:52 IST
Navneet Sharma
Navneet Sharma
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Sukhpal Khaira,AAP,AAP legislators
AAP legislators Sukhpal Khaira with other party leaders in Chandigarh. (HT Photo)

A day after he was fired from the post of the leader of opposition in Punjab assembly, Bholath MLA Sukhpal Khaira and eight other MLAs on Friday raised a banner of revolt against the top leadership of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), demanding immediate review of the decision.

The defiant MLAs, who termed the sacking as “arbitrary and undemocratic”, announced a party volunteers’ convention at Bathinda on August 2 to decide their future strategy.

They include Kanwar Sandhu (MLA from Kharar), Nazar Singh Manshahia (Mansa), Jagdev Singh Kamalu (Maur), Pirmal Singh (Bhadaur), Jagtar Singh Hissowal (Raikot), Master Baldev Singh (Jaitu), Rupinder Kaur Ruby (Bathinda Rural) and Jai Kishan Rori (Garshankar).

Before that, these MLAs will start halqa (constituency-level) meetings across the state from Saturday to drum up support. A letter was also shot off to national convener and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal to lodge their protest and seek his immediate intervention to end the crisis.

Khaira, whose ties with Delhi leaders have been uneasy ever since he opposed Kejriwal’s apology to SAD’s Bikram Majithia in a drug allegation-related defamation case, was replaced by the party with Dirba MLA Harpal Cheema on Thursday.

Riled by his removal, Khaira said he was not interested in the post, but the arbitrary action must be reviewed. “Party bikhar rahi hai (is collapsing). You cannot take such action by ignoring democratic processes and announce it on Twitter,” said Khaira Bholath MLA, insisting that he would remain in the party and work for strengthening it.

Though he had planned to go “live” on Facebook early in the morning in his trademark style, Khaira later opted for the press conference in which eight of the 20 party legislators and other leaders supporting him were paraded as a show of strength. He held a meeting with most of them at his private house, not the official bungalow allotted to him as the leader of opposition, before criticising the “arbitrary” move.

Though support for the sacked leader appears to have rattled the Delhi leadership and frantic calls were made to ascertain if any other legislators were also headed his way, there is no immediate threat of split to the party. The AAP has 20 MLAs and any split without attracting the anti-defection law is only possible if 14 (two-thirds of the total strength) of them come together to form a separate unit.

While Kejriwal and his team are not known to rollback decisions, a combative Khaira appears intent on taking the fight to them. He appealed to MLAs who didn’t come out in his support to hear the voice of their “antaratma” (inner soul) and decide. “I know your compulsions. Whenever any party MLAs were in trouble due to allegations of goonda tax or illegal mining, I supported them. What is my fault? That I fought against land, mining, drug and transport mafias,” he asked.

The party has been hit frequent upheavals caused by indiscipline and lack of trust since the state assembly elections last year with Thursday’s attempt of the leadership to assert its authority being only the newest flashpoint.

First Published: Jul 28, 2018 11:49 IST