At Khaira's Bathinda convention, AAP rebels declare state unit 'autonomy'
Chandigarh, Aug 2 : The split in the AAP rank and file in Punjab was out in the open once again on Thursday as party MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira held a convention in Bathinda, in a show of strength, which was attended by six other party legislators.
Khaira, a former Leader of Opposition in Punjab Assembly, organised the party volunteers' convention in Bathinda town, where Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) rebels passed resolutions granting "autonomy" to the party's Punjab unit. The convention also dissolved AAP's organisational structure in the state and rejected the unceremonious removal of Khaira as Leader of Opposition by the central leadership.
The AAP national leadership dubbed the event as "anti-party" activity and blamed the SAD-BJP combine, RSS and the Bains brothers of Lok Insaaf Party of "trying to split the main opposition party".
Khaira said the convention was organised to show to the AAP central leadership that the party's state leaders and activists had the freedom to express their opinion.
Seven AAP legislators, including Khaira, attended the convention along with scores of other party leaders and activists.
Khaira said: "My fight is for the interests of Punjab. I am not after any post. I will speak for all Punjabis. This state has been ruined by the misrule of the Badal family and (Chief Minister) Amarinder Singh. This is not my fight but the fight for Punjab."
Eleven of the 20 AAP legislators on Thursday had a breakfast meeting with party National Convener and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in Delhi. These AAP legislators later said that they had told the party leadership that those attending the Bathinda convention were their "brothers" and were "misled".
They said that they impressed upon the central leadership not to initiate action against legislators and leaders who attended the Bathinda event.
After various leaders, including Khaira, had addressed the convention, resolutions were verbally moved and passed by the gathering. AAP legislator and former journalist Kanwar Sandhu read out the resolutions.
One resolution dissolved the party's organisational structure in Punjab and authorised the event organisers and legislators present to prepare a blueprint for the new party structure in Punjab.
Through another resolution, the convention rejected the removal of Khaira as Leader of Opposition and appointment of Dalit leader Harpal Singh Cheema in his place.
The convention demanded a meeting of party legislators in Chandigarh to elect the new incumbent for the post.
With its Punjab unit amid a crisis, the AAP blamed the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Shiromani Akali Dal, Bharatiya Janata Party and MLAs Balwinder Singh Bains and his younger brother Simarjeet Singh Bains for trying to split the party.
The AAP became the main opposition in Punjab Assembly after elections in March last year, winning 20 seats in the 117-member house.