Updated: March 17, 2018 7:43:04 am
A day after Delhi Chief Minister and AAP national convenor Arvind Kejriwal tendered an apology to former Punjab minister Bikram Singh Majithia, cracks in the party widened. While the Punjab party unit witnessed a slew of resignations and looked headed for a split, AAP Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh said many were “unhappy” with Kejriwal’s volte-face.
Kejriwal Thursday had apologised to Majithia, who withdrew a defamation case against him. He had levelled serious allegations against Majithia in the run-up to the assembly elections in Punjab.
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Singh did not apologise. He said, “Many people are unhappy. I hope justice will be done as people like BS Majithia deserve to be in jail.”
His remarks came soon after Sangrur MP Bhagwant Mann resigned as the AAP’s Punjab chief and Aman Arora resigned as co-president. The Lok Insaf Party (LIP) also announced that it would break its alliance with the AAP in Punjab. “We cannot be associated with a party whose main leader meekly surrendered by tendering the apology to former minister Bikram Singh Majithia,” said LIP leader and MLA Simarjeet Singh Bains.
The Bains brothers — Simarjit Singh and Balwinder Singh — who are MLAs from Ludhiana, announced the decision after attending a meeting of AAP and LIP MLAs at the Punjab Vidhan Sabha Friday. Out of 20 AAP MLAs, 18 attended the meeting with the exception of Dirba MLA Harpal Cheema and Dakha MLA HS Phoolka, who were busy in court cases.
Mann said, “I’m resigning as a president of AAP Punjab but my fight against drug mafia and all kind of corruption in Punjab will continue as an ‘Aam Aadmi’ of Punjab”.
Arora called Kejriwal’s apology painful. Addressing a tweet to Manish Sisodia, the state in-charge of the party, Arora said, “Due to painful turn of events since yesterday, please accept my resignation from the post of co-president.”
AAP Leader of the Opposition in the Punjab Assembly Sukhpal Khaira said Kejriwal’s apology was unfortunate. “It seems as if our leader has shown mental weakness and surrendered. We are also being accused and asked whether Kejriwal has reached an understanding with Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD). On this issue all MLAs have condemned the apology because none of us were taken into confidence,” he said.
Sources in the party said dissenting MLAs would consider legal opinions to break away from the AAP and form a new political party and whether provisions of the anti-defection law would be applicable. The party may lose its status as the principal Opposition in Punjab and the status of Leader of Opposition if their numbers fall. As of now, after the withdrawal of support by LIP, the AAP has 20 MLAs in the Vidhan Sabha while the SAD-BJP alliance has 18 (15+3).
Delhi Deputy Chief Minister and Punjab in-charge, Manish Sisodia said the party would initiate dialogue. “There is no rift, we are all together. We will talk to everyone and they will understand. We are fighting for the people. We will fight for citizens in courts but not for such cases. If we spend time in courts for our own cases, then when will we take time out for public issues.”
Sources in Delhi said the AAP Punjab unit had sought time from Arvind Kejriwal to meet and discuss their issues. The source said, “They asked to meet and Kejriwal has also given them time. It needs to be understood that they too have their political compulsions and they will discuss this with him. We are hopeful that the situation will be resolved.”
Harjot Singh Bains, chief spokesperson in Punjab, and founder convenor of AAP Punjab came out in support of Kejriwal. He said on Twitter, “Although I am against the apology tendered by Arvind Ji to Bikram Majithia. But Arvind Kejriwal is my leader and will remain. Our Punjab leadership and volunteers will take on Punjab and will fight till our last breath.”
He also accused Khaira, on Twitter, of “trying his best to break AAP being LOP”. He should immediately resign as LOP and MLA and face the bypoll,” he said.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Singh said his legal battle with Majithia would continue. “There is simply no question of any apology to Majithia from my side. Kejriwal ji might have apologised to him but I stand by my statement. I am not going to retract my statement at any cost. The case will continue in court and we will fight till the end,” he said.
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In March alone, Kejriwal and other AAP leaders have 24 hearings in 17 cases slated. Most of these cases, the party said, were defamation cases targeting Kejriwal – including those filed by Pawan Khera, Subhash Chandra and BJP leaders Arun Jaitley, Nitin Gadkari, Ramesh Bidhuri, Vijender Gupta, said sources.
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