THE INTERNAL bickering among Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLAs following the apology tendered by the party’s national convenor, Arvind Kejriwal, to SAD leader Bikram Singh Majithia, has cast a shadow over the party’s plans to corner the Congress government over a host of issues in the budget session which begins tomorrow.
As many as five AAP MLAs Tuesday skipped a meeting called by Leader of Opposition, Sukhpal Singh Khaira, to discuss floor planning for the budget session. While HS Phoolka was busy in court cases pertaining to the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, others who were not present at the meeting were Manjit Singh Bilaspur, Kultar Singh Sandhwan, Baljinder Kaur and Budh Ram. Out of these Sandhwan has openly accused Khaira of trying to engineer a split within the party at a meeting which had been called last Friday to discuss the fallout of the apology tendered by Kejriwal.
When asked about the absence of the MLAs at the meeting, Khaira said that 15 MLAs were present while some MLAs “expressed their inability to attend the meeting due to pressing circumstances”. When asked if the apology issue has impaired AAP’s ability to attack Congress, Khaira said, “We will take up issues concerning the people of Punjab forcefully but the attack on drugs issue will be impacted by this row,”. He, however, added that the party will take up the issues of farmer and farm labourers’ suicides, betrayal with the youth on the false promise of “Har Ghar Naukri”, failure of Punjab government to curb drugs, illegal mining, great discrimination with the SC’s, BC’s and other weaker sections of the society.
Earlier in the day Khaira released a public video in which he defended himself against the allegations that he was trying to split AAP in Punjab. “Do you think I am a coward who will break the party by conspiring? If there was anything like this then I will say it openly. There area all kinds of discussion that take place in a party meeting, is it a crime? Some people within our party have conspired against me. I do not want to take their name. They went to Delhi and told lies. These are people who are not popular in Punjab and those who cannot raise public issues,”
The LoP said that the present controversy has not arisen because of party leaders in Punjab but because Kejriwal apologised to Majithia. “It was not expected that a person like Kejriwal will apologise to a person like Majithia. It came as a shock to us because we have to live in Punjab. The same day an STF report in the Punjab and Haryana High Court said that there was evidence against Majithia in the drugs allegations. Kejriwal has now explained that he was overburdened by court cases and we understand his problems,”
He went on to say that as a LoP he cannot be a mute spectator and in the meeting of MLAs he had to say that this apology was wrong. “I have put myself in danger. The drugs case against me was followed up by Amarinder govt till the Supreme Court. Even then some members of the party had expressed their doubts over me. In last one year people have lost faith in us. Now HS Phoolka and Kanwar Sandhu have talked about autonomy for the Punjab unit. I did not go to the Delhi meeting because in our last meeting, in the presence of MLAs, it was decided that the next meeting will be held in Chandigarh. This was a baby step for autonomy. How can we get autonomy if we have to go to Delhi for meetings,” he asked.