AAP MLA from Bhulath Sukhpal Singh Khaira was unanimously elected leader of his party in the Punjab Assembly during a party meeting in Delhi on Thursday. As AAP is the main Opposition party in the state, Khaira would take oath as Leader of the Opposition (LOP).
Khaira (52), considered a firebrand and a known baiter of Akalis, was seen as “too independent-minded” by the Delhi-based leadership of AAP, which was often accused of virtually running the Punjab unit of AAP from Delhi and sidelining regional leaders. Hence, Khaira’s appointment is being termed as “victory of regional leadership” within the party.
“It’s a moral victory for all those who believe in struggle and truth in the world where money and sycophancy prevail,” Khaira told The Indian Express. He did not miss praising Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. “Kejriwal and AAP are the only platforms for upright people,” he said.
Kejriwal had called a meeting of 20 AAP MLAs in Delhi. Sources said he met each MLA separately and asked them about their choice of LOP. Most of the MLAs are said to have voted for Khaira. Kejriwal then held a meeting of all AAP MLAs and MPs, including state party chief Bhagwant Mann, and announced Khaira’s name, who thanked the party.
A second-time MLA, Khaira replaces AAP leader HS Phoolka, a Supreme Court lawyer who quit the post after he was barred by the Supreme Court Bar Association from contesting any cases while holding an office of profit. Phoolka has been spearheading campaign to get justice for 1984 riot victims.
Khaira, who quit Congress to join AAP in December 2015, did not have a smooth ride even in his new party. Despite being an outspoken leader, he was not given any major responsibility by the AAP leadership. In the run-up to Assembly polls early this year, he was not utilised much.
For Khaira, who has a strong following in diaspora, there was a huge surge of support on the social media from the NRIs in the last one week ever since Phoolka quit the post. Listing his priorities, Khaira said he would continue to fight the government tooth and nail like he has been fighting the Akalis. “I will raise all important issues of the state, starting from farmers to every single common man,” he said.