In the wake of Sukhpal Khaira’s resignation from Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), another MLA, Baldev Singh, is also expected to tender his resignation to fight Lok Sabha elections from Faridkot (reserved) constituency. A meeting of six rebel AAP MLAs has been called in Chandigarh Tuesday, to discuss the situation developing after Khaira’s resignation and formation of a new party. Khaira will also announce his new political party the same day.
A declaration regarding Baldev Singh’s resignation was made by Khaira Monday before mediapersons at his residence. “Baldev Singh will resign soon. The other MLAs are also with me but we do not want them to resign. We do not need unnecessary by-elections in Punjab as it costs crores of rupees to hold such elections,” said Khaira. He added that he and his supporters did not want Sukhbir Badal to become a leader of opposition if AAP fell short of numbers in the assembly due to mass resignations.
During an interaction with mediapersons, Khaira was unaccompanied by any of the six rebel AAP MLAs. When asked about their absence and that of Kanwar Sandhu, who had been suspended from AAP along with Khaira, the former AAP leader said that the MLAs were not present “as per a strategy”.
The Indian Express contacted Baldev Singh to confirm whether he was contemplating resigning from AAP. “I have not yet resigned from the party. I am holding discussions with fellow members of our group and I will soon take a call on it,” he said.
The supporting rebel AAP MLAs have, however, not come out in open support of Khaira till now and have not made any statement in his favour either. The spokesperson for the rebel MLAs, Kanwar Sandhu, had earlier said a meeting of the rebel group would be held in a few days time and a call would be taken then. Out of the seven MLAs who had come out in support of Khaira against the AAP leadership, Garhshanker MLA, Jai Kishan Rori, has gone back to official AAP fold, while six now remain estranged from the party. Out of the six, Kanwar Sandhu, stands suspended from the party. The other five are Jaitu MLA Baldev Singh, Mansa MLA Nazar Singh, Mashahia Raikot MLA Jagtar Singh Jagga Hissowal, Maur MLA Jagdev Singh Kamalu and Bhadaur MLA Pirmal Singh.
When contacted, Pirmal Singh said he and his fellow MLA are still with Khaira. “We welcome the formation of a new party by Sukhpal Khaira. Till the time he speaks about issues related to Punjab its welfare, we are with him,” he said.
Khaira also said the next meeting of the Punjab Democratic alliance, formed with Dr Dharamvira Gandhi, LIP and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), will be held on January 11 at Ludhiana.
“In this meeting, we will decide on fighting Lok Sabha polls and we will also take a call on who will fight from which seat. But post-2019 polls, we will aim for unity, so that all of us can gather under one flag,” he said.
Meanwhile, reacting to the demand by Bhagwant Mann that he should resign from his assembly seat of Bholath, Khaira said that the moment he resigned from the party it was deemed that he had quit his seat also. “When I resigned from AAP it is deemed, construed and understood that I have left the party. Some people, especially Bhagwant Mann, have questioned why I do not leave the seat. By resigning from the party I have also quit the seat. But Mann is speaking out of hatred. Manish Sisodia says those who want to work for the nation should stay with us, while those who want offices can leave. They are targeting me out of hate. They can complain to the Speaker and get me disqualified,” said Khaira.
Hitting out at Bhagwant Mann, Khaira said Mann had resigned from the post of state president in aftermath of Arvind Kejriwal’s apology to Bikram Majithia. “However, he still functions as the president and when asked about the status of his resignation or whether he has reconciled to the apology, he says he has not had the time to speak to Kejriwal about it. How is that possible? He has met him dozens of time and not asked him about the apology? He is doing maskari (jest) with people of Punjab” said Khaira.
He also criticised the 53rd amendment of the Constitution which brought in anti-defection law under Congress rule and the 91st amendment under the BJP, which stipulated that two-thirds members of the old party would need to merge into a new party, in order to escape disqualification under the anti-defection law.
“We feel this is like throttling democracy. Party leaders are now acting like dictators due to this. No genuine inner party democracy exists or elections for president are held under democratic conditions,” Khaira added.