Six months after he raised the banner of revolt in protest against his summary removal as Leader of Opposition, AAP’s rebel MLA, Sukhpal Khaira, Sunday tendered his resignation from the primary membership of the party.
In a letter addressed to Arvind Kejriwal, national convenor of AAP and Delhi Chief Minister, Khaira accused him of dictatorial attitude and political opportunism by hobnobbing with the Congress.
Khaira, who has not made any secret of his desire to contest the Lok Sabha elections from Bathinda constituency, told The Indian Express that he is not resigning as MLA but would be floating a new party on Tuesday. “It will be a secular outfit which will work with other like minded parties. As for resigning from my Assembly seat, I shall not be doing it for now. This is not the right time for it. Let AAP get me disqualified from the Assembly if they so desire,” he said.
AAP’s Punjab turmoil
Khaira's resignation is the latest episode in a series of troubles for AAP in Punjab that beset the party ahead of the 2017 Assembly polls, and have continued to plague it since. It has prevented AAP from playing the role of the main opposition party after the election. The main cause appears to be the wide gulf between AAP's central leadership and the Punjab unit, and the perception that the state leadership enjoys no autonomy. The increasing closeness between AAP and Congress could be adding to the unease in the Punjab unit.
In his resignation letter, Khaira said the party has totally deviated from the ideology and principles on which it was formed post Anna Hazare movement.
“Like many other people across the globe even I was highly impressed by the emergence of AAP on the political spectrum of India, to cleanse the rampantly corrupt system. Punjabis worldwide motivated me to join your party so that we could improve the plight of our country and Punjab. But unfortunately after joining the party, I realised that the hierarchy of AAP was no different from the traditional centralised political parties,” he said.
He stated that the turn of events in the run-up to the 2017 Punjab elections confirmed his belief that there was no inner party democracy. “If you remember, I had strongly objected to the distribution of tickets for the Punjab Assembly, as we had received reports of money exchange, favouritism and nepotism. You also failed to understand the psyche of Punjabis due to your overconfidence. You only listened to the two ‘Subedars’ you had appointed to run Punjab and never bothered about the sentiments of AAP volunteers on the ground,” he said.
Khaira told Kejriwal in the letter that by failing to project a Chief Ministerial face in Punjab, he further confirmed the suspicions that an outsider will take over the reins in case of victory.
“A close perusal of the state history clearly indicates that the Punjabis have never accepted the authority of outsiders. As expected the party crashed to only 20 seats in the Vidhan Sabha from the often boasted 100 seats victory by your ‘Subedars’. The saddest part is that a party which vouched of transparency and accountability never bothered to hold any person or persons accountable for the shameful defeat. It is a matter of fact, that one of the arrogant Subedars is still running Punjab from behind the curtain despite a huge hue and cry against him,” said Khaira hinting broadly about former state in-charge, Sanjay Singh.
Referring to the “meek apology” to Bikram Majithia, Khaira said it revealed Kejriwal’s double standards in politics. “Your duplicity on the vital issue of Punjab river waters also puts you on the same pedestal of cunning leaders of India. You have blatantly gone back on the most important promise of Swaraj, by centralising all powers with yourself. You have also thrown to winds the constitution of the party merely to remain Convenor and continue your grip on the party. Your hobnobbing and flirting with the Congress is yet another example of sheer political opportunism, that has left the people of India bewildered,” he said.
The MLA said he was saddened that Kejriwal’s dictatorial attitude has shattered the dreams of Indians and the Punjabis for a clean alternative to the decayed and rotten system. “As a result of which almost all prominent leaders of the party beginning from Prashant Bhushan to H S Phoolka have either quit the party or you have thrown them out. We in Punjab aspire to turn the dream of a clean political alternative into a reality, which is impossible as long as I am a part of your highly centralised high command culture,” he said.
Reacting to Khaira’s resignation, party in-charge for Punjab, Manish Sisodia put out a series of tweets saying this was an expected development. “Sukhpal Khaira’s resignation was expected. Party will be strengthened with his exit. He should now resign as MLA also, which he won on party ticket,” he said.
Sisodia added that Khaira started revolting against party since post of LoP in Punjab was given to a Dalit leader.
“AAP will keep working for poor and marginalised people. Those who have problem in this can leave the party. Khaira was trying to weaken party and was openly revolting against the party since then. He tried to break the party. Which organisation can tolerate such behaviour,” he said. Sisodia added that Arvind Kejriwal always says that those who have come for position or power should leave the party. “He was always clamouring for position and power,” he said.
Kharar MLA, Kanwar Sandhu, who is the spokesperson for the rebel AAP MLAs, said that the splinter group will decide on the further course of action in a few days.
“There was a discussion among us regarding this step. We will be meeting in a few days time and will decide on the next course of action,” he said.
Sources say that attempts were made by fellow members of the rebel group to dissuade Khaira from taking the step but he inisisted as he was keen on contesting the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.