Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has been making hectic efforts to convince its MLA Sukhpal Khaira to continue as the chief whip of the party in the Punjab Assembly even as he reiterated Tuesday that he would not take back his resignation. Following the appointment of Bhagwant Mann as the state convenor of AAP in Punjab, Khaira had announced his resignation from the post at the meeting called by national convenor Arvind Kejriwal in New Delhi on Monday. Today, the newly appointed state co-convenor, Aman Arora, met Khaira and tried to convince him to stay at his post in the interest of the party.
When contacted, Khaira said Aman Arora was like his younger brother but his decision to relinquish the post of chief whip was final and he would not reconsider it. “There is a new set-up of the party organisation in the state and it is only fair they get a free hand to go forth carrying out the re-structuring as they deem fit. I will concentrate on working as an MLA in my constituency. However, I remain a dedicated volunteer of the party and am very much with them,” Khaira said.
Aman Arora, the party MLA from Sunam, said Khaira’s continuance as the chief whip was very much desired by the party and this is why when he announced his resignation, it was immediately rejected by a voice vote in the presence of Arvind Kejriwal. “We are confident he will remain the chief whip. It is not that there were differences between Khaira and Bhagwant Mann. Both of them have their strong points. This is why I spent nearly two hours with him today discussing all the aspects,” said Arora.
Asked about him being projected as the “Hindu” face of the party, Arora said there were concerns that has to be addressed and that this was a factor.
“AAP is a secular party, but we also live in a society where balances have to be struck. The Congress, Akalis and a section of the media have painted us as Khalistanis, naxalite etc and because of this the moderate Hindu and Sikh voters have been a bit scared,” he said.
Arora, however, said his appointment was not solely because being a Hindu face. “I have won with the highest vote margin in AAP in Punjab and also the third highest vote taker in the state among all three parties,” he said.
Referring to the dissent over Mann’s appointment, Arora said it was nothing serious and that Mann had a great ability to pull people towards him. “I have been given the responsible to re-structure the party in the state and I will be doing this by removing the misgivings that some party cadre have developed. We will get them back and the ground level organisation will be strengthened,” Arora said.
Sarvit Kaur Mauke, a first-time MLA from Jagraon who has been appointed the Deputy Leader of Opposition, said the party was completely united. A former teacher, Manuke said Kejriwal had also held meetings with the MLAs and asked them about the future plans for raising public issues in Punjab and sought consensus on name of convenor.
A former college lecturer in English, Baljinder Kaur, who is MLA from Talwandi Sabo, said that apart from getting an idea of the administrative machinery in the time that she has been an MLA, she has been going around meeting people and hearing their grievances.
“We are sitting in opposition so people expect us to sit with them and listen to them and help them. Despite the issues concerning the party the ground level workers still have faith in it. Please try to remember we have won without offering any inducements like liquor or drugs to the voters. We have put the Akalis in the third position in the state. This is a big thing,” she says.