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With most MLAs in tow, AAP leader Sukhpal Khaira fights detractors on ground and virtually too

Most MLAs in tow: Leader of opposition says won’t resign but fight ‘combined might’ of Akalis-Cong; Baljinder Kaur stays away, faces hate posts on FB

punjab Updated: Nov 08, 2017 10:10 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Sukhpal Khaira,AAP,Aam Aadmi Party
Leader of opposition Sukhpal Khaira at a press conference; 13 of 20 party MLAs were with him. (HT photo)

In the tug-of-war within the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), most MLAs rallied behind leader of opposition Sukhpal Khaira a day after he got interim relief from the Punjab and Haryana high court which stayed the non-bailable warrant issued to him by a Fazilka court in a 2015 drug case.

Flanked by 13 of the 20 party MLAs and ally Lok Insaaf Party’s two legislators — Balwinder and Simarjit Bains — Khaira claimed the party was firmly backing him.

Party’s Talwandi Sabo MLA Baljinder Kaur, who had sought Khaira’s resignation after the court summons, stayed away. But Kaur faced hate posts on her Facebook page. Party leader Himmat Singh Shergill, who too had reportedly told a news channel that Khaira should step down, posted a clarification on Facebook after hate mails. Party’s co-president and Sunam MLA Aman Arora, who faced flak on social media, sat by Khaira on Tuesday in the show of solidarity.

Must read | Bains’ Facebook account hacked, derogatory comments posted against senior AAP leaders

Khaira explained the absence of six MLAs — Baljinder, Kharar MLA Kanwar Sandhu, Kotkapura MLA Kultar Singh Sandhwan, Dakha MLA HS Phoolka, Budhlada MLA Budh Ram and Rupnagar MLA Amarjit Singh Sandoa — to personal engagements.

The press conference was streamed live on Facebook and Khaira was not only addressing media here but his supporters worldwide when he said he would not “buckle under pressure and fight the combined might” of the Congress and the Akalis.

“Khaira is a companion and the matter is sub-judice. If the case proves to be wrong, we all are with him.” — MLA Kulwant Singh

“The Akalis, when in power, filed the false case but no independent witness deposed against me. My name is not there in the FIR or the chargesheet. My PSO (personal security officer) was detained for days and interrogated. The trail was over. But once the Congress came to power, the cops were called again to give statements and summons were issued to me, that too with a non-bailable warrant. Both Akalis and Congress are playing a friendly match and want to silence me,” Khaira said.

Asking on what moral ground were the Congress and Akali-BJP leaders seeking his resignation, he said: “Congress president Sonia Gandhi too has been issued summons in the National Herald case, Himachal chief minister Virbhadra Singh and his son are out on bail, Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh too keeps attending court hearings and former CM Parkash Singh Badal and his son Sukhbir were even chargesheeted and jailed. And I should put in papers on something that is clear case political vendetta to silence me? I have been fighting against drugs and will not only resign from the post but leave politics altogether if the charges are proved.”

When contacted, Phoolka refused to comment saying he was not aware of the press conference, but Khaira said Phoolka and Sandhu have openly sided with him after the court summons.

MLA Kulwant Singh said his solidarity as an AAP MLA is with the party. “Khaira is a companion and the matter is sub-judice. If the case proves to be wrong, we all are with him,” he said, adding he could not be present owing to a wedding in Amritsar. Baljinder did not attend calls and her secretary said she was busy in a family wedding.

First Published: Nov 08, 2017 10:09 IST