Sangrur MP Bhagwant Mann Tuesday accused AAP MLAs Sukhpal Khaira and Kanwar Sandhu of dividing the party and challenged them to resign as MLAs and get re-elected on their own party symbol.
Hinting at impending action against Khaira and Sandhu for anti-party activities, Mann said this could happen “very soon” after the August 15 AAP meeting at Issru where the dissident MLAs have also called for a meeting. “The same may happen to them that happened with Patiala MP Dr Dharamvir Gandhi and Fatehgarh Sahib MP Harinder Singh Khalsa when they held a parallel meeting at Baba Bakala. There is something called discipline in the party,” he said.
Mann, who was hospitalised when the crisis broke out in the party in Punjab, blamed Khaira for orchestrating dissidence after being removed from the post of Leader of Opposition. “Organisation is bigger than the individual. We do not need a certificate from you for standing with Punjab. Till July 26, (the day Khaira was removed) AAP in Punjab was autonomous, but when he was removed from the post, the state unit suddenly came under someone’s rule,” he said while addressing mediapersons here.
Accusing Khaira of “playing Punjab card and blackmailing volunteers”, Mann said appealed to the party workers not to support Khaira and Sandhu as “they are very clever and manipulative people”.
Barnala MLA Meet Hayer said he had been told by state in-charge Manish Sisodia that Kanwar Sandhu had asked to be made Leader of Opposition. “He reportedly told Sisodia he will handle Sukhpal Khaira if he is made LoP,” said Hayer.
Mann said that he was sad to see that Khaira’s supporters have even made fun of his illness when he was hospitalised for 10 days. “They have started indulging in character assassination. They have made it into a Delhi versus Punjab issue. Khaira is not Punjab and Punjab does not belong to one person alone. It is not that only those who support Khaira are Punjabis. He seems to be showing traits of Modi and is portraying that anyone who speaks against him is ‘Punjab Virodhi’ (opposed to Punjab),” he said.
The MP had resigned from the post of state president in February this year when Arvind Kejriwal tendered an apology to Akali leader Bikram Majithia for levelling drugs smuggling allegations against him. Mann clarified today that he had not yet taken back his resignation but hinted he might do so after he meets Kejriwal and he offers a reason for the apology. “They took my silence as my weakness. But now things have gone out of hand,” he said, adding that Khaira and Sandhu knew four months in advance that Kejriwal was going to tender an apology.
Accusing Khaira of being an ‘e-neta’ because of his penchant for addressing supporters through social media, Mann appealed to the MLAs supporting Khaira to come back into party fold. “These two (Khaira and Sandhu) will use you and will sacrifice you for their gains. They are very clever,” he said.
Responding to Mann’s allegations, Khaira said he was appalled to see the “cheap level theatrics” by an elected MP.
In a statement released here, Khaira said he always considered Mann as his younger brother but unfortunately the MP had failed to show restraint while attacking him, which showed he “is badly frustrated, dejected and depressed”.
He said it was clear Mann only acted as mouthpiece of the Congress, with whom the national leadership of the AAP had forged an alliance.