Sharp differences between Punjab leadership of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) played out in the open Thursday when Leader of Opposition Sukhpal Singh Khaira bitterly contradicted party’s state co-president Dr Balbir Singh on the controversy surrounding the LoP’s statement on “Referendum 2020”.
The press conference called by AAP to express its concern over the attack on its Ropar MLA, Amarjit Sandoa, by sand mafia had the two AAP leaders getting embroiled in a war of words.
High drama took place when Khaira gave an explanation on his statement on “Referendum 2020”. Asked by a journalist if he was satisfied with the statement made by Khaira, Dr Balbir Singh mentioned that it was a fact that Khaira had not answered his phone calls when he called him to seek clarity on his statement.
In his retort, Khaira said that it was unfortunate that Dr Balbir had taken to social media to talk about his phone calls. “It is factually incorrect,” he said in annoyance even as other AAP MLAs present on the occasion looked on.
Even as Dr Balbir Singh was seen holding up his mobile phone as if to show call details and give a reply to Khaira’s comment, AAP MLA from Kotkapura, Kultar Singh Sandhwan, protested that the press conference had been called to talk about attack on Ropar MLA and not the issue surrounding “Referendum 2020”.
There was complete bedlam after Kultar’s intervention with him taking on the media for asking questions on the controversial issue while journalists protested that they were being gagged by the AAP MLA. Efforts by Kharar MLA Kanwar Sandhu, Jagraon MLA Sarvjit Kaur Manuke and Sukhpal Khaira failed to placate Kultar Singh who kept shouting at the top of his voice ignoring the pleas of his party colleagues.
Eventually, Sukhpal Khaira apologised on behalf of Kultar Singh but even this apology was dismissed by the MLA who angrily said, “No apology needs to be given.” Following this, Sukhpal Khaira walked out of the press conference.
Later, an embarrassed Dr Balbir Singh tried to explain the open display of infighting as a misunderstanding. “There may have been some network problems due to which Khaira may not have got my calls,” he said as an explanation of sorts.
In the immediate aftermath of Khaira’s statement on ‘Referendum 2020”, Dr Balbir Singh had issued a statement saying that AAP did not support what Khaira had said and that an explanation will be sought from him on his statement. It is also learnt that during Khaira’s meeting with Punjab in-charge, Manish Sisodia, on Wednesday, Khaira was asked to give a detailed explanation to Dr Balbir over the controversy.