The split within the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) Monday manifested itself on the floor of the House when the two factions of the party MLAs held their own protests on issues of their own choice prompting Parliamentary Affairs Minister Brahm Mohindra to question the Speaker if AAP had broken into two parties.
The rebel AAP MLAs, led by Sukhpal Khaira, rushed into the Well of the House just as the Leader of Opposition, Harpal Cheema got up to speak. Cheema’s comments were drowned in the noise as the eight rebel MLAs shouted slogans demanding that their demand regarding the payment of Punjab river waters revenue by neighbouring states should be heard.
Brahm Mohindra asked the Speaker, Rana K P Singh, to clarify what was the situation of AAP in the House since the MLAs were drowning out the voice of their own LoP. “I think the majority of the MLAs are aligned with the LoP,” the Speaker replied to Mohindra.
The dissident MLAs were joined in the protest by the two Lok Insaaf Party (LIP) MLAs, Balwinder Singh Bains and Simarjit Singh Bains. The Bains brothers have been attacked by the Delhi leadership of the party for attacking the national convenor of AAP, Arvind Kejriwal, and attempting to break the party. The rebel MLAs and Bains brothers later conducted a walkout from the House on the issue even as the loyalist MLAs kept sitting.
Conversely, the dissident MLAs kept sitting and made no attempt to join the protest by MLAs led by H S Phoolka on the issue of Congress’s involvement in 1984 riots. Maur MLA, Jagdev Singh Kamalu, did join the other group of MLAs for a short while, while the seven rebel MLAs kept sitting, but he too returned to his seat after a while.
Phoolka, who is fighting a legal battle for the 1984 riot victims, came rushing to the dissident MLAs benches and could be seen angrily gesticulating towards Kanwar Sandhu and Sukhpal Khaira to join the protest but neither moved from their seats. There was considerable hooting from the treasury benches as the AAP drama unfolded on the floor of the house.
Khaira demanded that the House should hold discussions on the Justice Narang committee report as well as the report submitted by a house committee on farmers’ suicides in the state. “Six months back you had said that the discussion will be held when the House meets next. When are we going to discuss these reports? After this session we will again be meeting after six months,” Khaira asked the Speaker.
Earlier, before the day’s session began, LIP and rebel AAP legislators sat on a dharna outside the entrance of the Assembly urging the government to implement the resolution passed by the state Assembly asking other states to pay royalty to Punjab for using river water. The MLAs said the Assembly had passed the resolution unanimously to demand royalty from these states but no action has been taken on it since 2016.
Simarjit Bains said that according to the international riparian law the states taking water from Punjab have to pay royalty. “Punjab has shared more than 12 million acre feet (MAF) water with Rajasthan since 1965, which amounted to more than Rs 16 lakh crore, but no government has bothered to raise this issue with the state,” he said speaking to mediapersons.