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September 2018 Edition of Power Politics is updated.         September 2018 Edition of Power Politics is updated.
Issue:August' 2018


AAP faction-ridden

K S Chawla

Sukhpal Singh Khaira The Punjab unit of the AAM AADMI PARTY (AAP) is faced with an unprecedented crisis after its Khaira faction declared itself autonomous but staying with the mainstream unit. The AAP has been in turmoil since its formation in 2012 and has seen many ups and downs.
The latest crisis in AAP has come up with the removal of Sukhpal Singh Khaira as Leader of the Opposition (LoP) in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha. The national leadership of the party has replaced Khaira, a firbrand leader, with Harpal Singh Cheema, a dalit leader of the Malwa region. The Khaira faction organized its volunteers convention in Bathinda on August 2 where it announced to have an autonomous unit.

Harpal Singh Cheema The convention received a massive spontaneous response from the workers. The organizers claimed that there were more than 12000 workers who attended the convention. They have announced to hold such conventions in the districts to mobilize the workers against the ‘dictatorial’ national leadership. As many as seven MLAs participated in the convention.
The AAP, which came up on the national scene after the Anna Hazare movement in Delhi against corruption, gave the hope of having an alternative government to the nation. Arvind Kejriwal was spearheading the agitation of Anna Hazare at Delhi. Along with leaders like Parshant Bhushan and Yoginder Yadav, he formed the AAM AADMI PARTY and became its national convener. In the run-up to the election to the Delhi Vidhan Sabha, the party won 67 seats out of 70 giving a crushing defeat to the Congress and the BJP despite the fact that the BJP-led NDA was ruling the country. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the AAP got maximum response from Punjab and won four Lok Sabha seats out of 13 seats. This was a big boost for the new party. But soon the national leadership started behaving in an authoritarian manner.
In Punjab, two MPs, namely, Dr. Dharamvir Gandhi and Harinder Singh Khalsa, were suspended for anti party activities. They remain suspended since then. Two more stalwarts, Parshant Bhushan and Yoginder Yadav, who were considered brains of the party, were also thrown out.
The Kejriwal-led government in Delhi has remained at logger heads with the NDA Government since its formation. In the 2017 Vidhan Sabha elections in Punjab, AAP was getting good response from the people of the state because of the huge anti- incumbency against the SAD-BJP Government.
A large number of NRIs had come to support the AAP in Punjab. But Kejriwal removed Sucha Singh Chhotepur as its convener in Punjab which gave a set-back to the party.
Chhotepur had worked hard to set up district units in Punjab. But the two appointees of the national leadership, Sanjay Singh and Dargesh Pathak, who were made incharge of the party in Punjab, were mired in allegations.” They interfered in the party affairs without studying the Punjab situation properly.

Harinder Singh Khalsa and Dr. Dharamvir Gandhi The Akali Dal allegedly entered into an agreement with the Congress led by Captain Amarinder Singh to prevent the AAP from coming into power in Punjab. Kejriwal committed a blunder when he stayed in the house of a militant at Moga during his election campaign. This was not accepted by the people of Punjab who had seen bad days of ten years militancy in the State. Amarinder won from Patiala and the Congress secured 77 seats out of 113 seats and became Chief Minister of Punjab for the second time. The Shiromini Akali Dal was decimated with 15 seats and the AAP emerged as the second largest opposition party with 22 seats.

Sucha Singh Chhotepur The AAP got the status of main opposition party in Punjab. H S Phoolka, Supreme Court advocate, who was elected from Dakha, was made the first Leader of Opposition in the Vidhan Sabha. But he had to resign as he was pleading in the cases of November 1984 anti-Sikh riots. He was succeeded by Sukhpal Singh Khaira as Leader of the Opposition.

Sanjay Singh and Dargesh Pathak Khaira discharged his duties very ably and raised his voice against sand mining scam. Rana Gurjit Singh, who was a minister in the Amarinder Singh Government, became his first victim. Gurjit Rana had to resign despite getting a clean chit from a retired judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court. He was busy in discharging his anti- corruption crusade, when Arvind Kejriwal tendered an unconditional apology to Bikram Majithia who was minister in the SAD-BJP government in a defamation case.

Amarinder Singh and Ravneet Bittu This action of Kejriwal gave a set-back to the AAP in Punjab and many Punjab leaders of the AAP resented. This was not relished by Kejriwal and his coterie. Sukhpal Khaira was also one of those who protested against Kejriwal’s apology and thus began the movement to remove him from the post of Leader of the Opposition. Finally, Manish Sisodia, Deputy Chief Minister and incharge of Punjab affairs, removed Khaira from the post of LoP.
The Leader of the Opposition, Harpal Cheema, is known to be mild mannered leader. Cheema has been made the Leader of Opposition in view of the 2019 Lok Sabha election. But the infighting among the leaders of the Punjab unit of the AAP will continue and would do harm to the party in the Lok Sabha poll.
Sukhpal Khaira, while talking to this writer, has strongly refuted the propaganda that the dissident MLAs would join hands with Sukhbir Badal to make him Leader of Opposition in the Vidhan Sabha.
This is a malicious propaganda being made by the Congress and his opponents in the party, he maintains. There is no question of our joining hands with the Akali Dal, he categorically said.
The structure of the Punjab unit of the AAP has remained in doldrums since Sangrur MP Bhagwant Mann has also quit his post as leader of the AAP in Punjab. Kejriwal has to set his house in order to fight Lok Sabha elections. He also needs to make up with the dissident MLAs and two suspended MPs, Dr.
Dharamvir and Harinder Singh Khalsa, before jumping into the electoral fray. Kejriwal must make up with the Khaira faction as it enjoys support from NRIs. Khaira’s removal as Leader of Opposition was resented by the NRIs.