With the internal strife in APP’s Punjab unit refusing to abate, the August 13 Jalandhar meeting of Delhi Deputy Chief Minister and Punjab AAP in-charge Manish Sisodia with party office-bearers has been cancelled.
The announcement regarding the cancellation of Sisodia’s visit was made in a meeting of AAP office-bearers chaired by Sangrur MP Bhagwant Mann. It has also been decided that there would be no political meeting held at Isru near Ludhiana on August 15.
The decision holds significance in light of the announcement made by the dissident MLAs group that they would also be paying homage to Karnail Singh Isru on August 15 and there was a possibility of a clash between the two groups.
While ambiguity prevails over Mann’s status as the president of the state unit given the fact that he resigned from the post in February following Arvind Kejriwal’s apology to Akali leader Bikram Majithia, the Sangrur MP he appeared to be in control of the state unit at the meeting today. The new Leader of Opposition, Harpal Cheema, Barnala MLA Meet Hayer and district presidents of the party were in attendance.
Mann said that in the coming days, he would be holding public meetings at Bathinda, Faridkot, Mansa, Moga and Muktsar. He said he would not let the people from other parties break AAP. Addressing the party office-bearers, Mann said this was the testing time for the party workers and he was sure they would not let him down. He asked the NRIs to beware of “mischievous ideas of few people to break the party”.
A majority of office-bearers suggested that action should be taken against Sukhpal Khaira and Kanwar Sandhu for their efforts to break the party but Mann said he would try to reach out to the leaders and convince them. He said dissident MLAs were in touch with him.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Dr Balbir Singh, co-president of the party unit in Punjab, said that since the Delhi Assembly was in session, it was decided that Sisodia’s visit to Punjab should be postponed to a later date. “He will not come to Punjab at the end of August. In the meantime the party will hold meetings in the districts with workers,” he said. Dr Balbir also clarified it was decided not to hold any political meeting at Isru because it was a martyrdom day.
When contacted, Harpal Cheema said he was still open to talks with the dissident group. “I am even prepared to leave my post of Leader of Opposition if that is a problem, though we know that the real issue is something else,” he said. Cheema said contact had been made with some MLAs in rebel group to solve the crisis.
Sukhpal Khaira said that nobody had been in touch with any MLA or him as yet but he was prepared to talk with anyone as per democratic norms. “However, I would like to make it clear that we cannot negotiate on the six resolutions which have been passed at the volunteers convention in Bathinda on August 2. We stand by those resolutions and we are well on our way to reform the party on those basis,” he said.
Kharar MLA Kanwar Sandhu said there was tremendous pressure on several MLAs who had not joined them from the volunteers in their areas. “We are quite busy in arrangements for our series of events as planned and will kick-off the district-level meetings with the August 11 meeting at Garshankar,” he said.
Meanwhile, sources in AAP said there was pressure on Bathinda (Rural) MLA Rupinder Kaur Ruby, Mehal Kalan MLA Kulwant Singh Pandori and Nihal Singh Wala MLA Manjit Singh Bilaspur from their supporters to join the dissident MLAs. Pressure was also being exerted on Jagraon MLA Saravjit Kaur Manuke, who has returned to the state after attending a meeting in Kerala.