Former Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader, Sukhpal Khaira, on Tuesday floated a new regional political outfit — the Punjabi Ekta Party — and vowed to take on the “corrupt duo of Badal and Amarinder” and give a clean alternative to the people of the state. Khaira had resigned from the AAP two days ago citing ‘dictatorial’ attitude of party chief Arvind Kejriwal. All six rebel AAP MLAs who support Khaira were present on the occasion, but they did not share the stage with Khaira and kept sitting among the visitors at the launch function.
The MLAs — Kanwar Sandhu, Jagdev Singh Kamalu, Jagtar Singh Jagga Hissowal, Pirmal Singh Khalsa, Master Baldev Singh and Nazar Singh Manshahia — arrived before the function began, while Patiala MP, Dr Dharamvira Gandhi, who is also suspended from the party along with Kanwar Sandhu, came later.
Sandhu said that they wished Khaira the best with his party, adding that the six MLAs will soon take a call on the way forward. Another MLA, Baldev Singh, also said that they had come to congratulate Khaira. Dr Gandhi was the only AAP leader who addressed the gathering on the occasion. He said the Punjab Democratic Alliance comprising his own Punjab Manch, LIP, BSP and now Punjabi Ekta Party will fight the 2019 Lok Sabha elections under one umbrella.
In his hour-long speech, Khaira lashed out at the Badal family and Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh for their failure to provide effective administration in the state. He said that the last 21 months of the Congress government have been an extension of the misrule that the state saw under the SAD-BJP government led by former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal.
Promising the ‘Singapore model’ to tackle corruption, Khaira said that his party intends to crack down on corruption and will also consider imposing death penalty on those convicted of corruption. “We will start from these two families. Their properties will be auctioned. We will also consider giving them capital punishment just like it has been proposed for cases of drugs smuggling,” he said.
Khaira cited rising suicides by farmers, increase in debt of the state and the disregard for religious values as three examples to show how Punjab had suffered at the hands of the Congress and during the SAD-BJP rule.
“More than 600 farmers have committed suicide during Captain Amarinder Singh’s current tenure as Chief Minister. Our youth are not getting employment. There are vacancies in the government sector but these are not being filled. By one estimate, 50 lakh educated youth, the best human resource in the state, have been forced to go abroad. A debt of Rs 2.50 lakh crore has come up due to the fiscal mess of Punjab government in the last three decades,” he said.
Raising the desecration cases, he added: “Religious values of the people have been played with. SGPC, Akal Takht have been made into handmaidens of politicians. The desecration of Guru Granth Sahib under the Akalis and no justice in Behbal Kalan firing cases under Akalis and Congress are an example.”
Alleging that Congress and Akalis were hand in glove, Khaira said that former Army Chief General J J Singh came to meet him last night and revealed some astonishing details. “General JJ Singh said that he was just a pawn in the Assembly elections when he was made to stand against Capt Amarinder Singh. He said that in the evening, Akali and Congress leaders would sit and discuss their strategy together,” said Khaira.
Confirming Khaira’s comments, the former Army chief told The Indian Express: “It was a fixed match in Patiala and in Lambi, where Capt Amarinder Singh fought against Parkash Singh Badal.”
“This is a very challenging step for us. We could lose our Assembly seats, but we have done this for Punjab. Akali Dal is now a party of Nonis, Dimpis and Rozys (Akali leaders). Congress took away waters of Punjab and attacked Golden Temple. It cannot be relied upon. Both have been also exposed in desecration and firing cases. They play a fixed match,” he said.
Khaira’s vision statement
* Subsidy to farmers should be by cash transfer
* Cooperative banks must cut rate of interest for farm loans by 50 per cent
* Will bring conflict of interest bill and de-link politics and business
* Appointment of Lokpal
* Punishing those responsible for sacrilege and police firing cases
* Action against “high and mighty” in drug cases
* “Organic drugs” farming like opium, poppy husk to be allowed after due deliberation
* Transport services to be nationalised to end monopoly of few families
* All mining to be brought under government through a corporation
* Liquor business monopoly to be ended. Youth to be involved through government corporation
* No pay hike for MLAs till government employees get salary, pension arrears