History repeats itself as AAP splits in Punjab with 7 rebel MLAs

Chandigarh, August 2: The Aam Aadmi Party split in Punjab today with the seven rebel MLAs including sacked Leader of the Opposition Sukhpal Singh Khaira announcing “dissolution” of the existing organisational structure. At the moment, it would be confined to the organisation as MLAs can’t go out under the existing anti-defection law. Only two-third MLAs can split without inviting disqualification. The party has 20 MLAs in the state.

The announcement was made at a convention organised by Khaira group of MLAs with financial and tactical support from NRI supporters who were profusely thanked from the stage for their continuing benevolence. The number of AAP MLAs who supported Khaira after his sack was  nine but two of them retracted. Thirteen of them were in Delhi today.

It was declared that a new “autonomous” organisational structure would be announced within a few days that would not look to Delhi for taking decisions.

The political agenda would be to organise third front comprising like-minded parties to confront the Congress and the Akali Dal-BJP alliance. The only like-minded party so far is the Lok Insaaf Party of Ludhiana based two MLAs. It is Khaira’s association with the LIP that has not been digested by the Delhi leadership of AAP. The Left in Punjab is not in a position to make any effective intervention in Punjab’s political and electoral discourse. The Bahujan Samaj Party support base has been shrinking over the years. The party could never take off in the home state of its founder Kanshi Ram.

It is pertinent to mention that AAP in Punjab has been known to be more of press statement and press conference party rather than mobilising the people on issues concerning the state. It has been more of personal projection. The rally at Bathinda was a welcome change in the background of this style of functioning.

However, a call given to the people from this stage of what was projected to be  AAP Volunteers Convention could lead to tension at places. The call was to the people  to stop the AAP MLAs who have not joined this convention from entering the villages.

Khaira shifted away from AAP’s sham slogan of Inquilab Zindabad to Punjabi Ekta Zindabad. The Akali Dal had affected shift in its political discourse from Panthic to Punjabiat in 1996 at its 75th anniversary conference at Moga after which its detractors started calling it the Punjabi Party.

There is yet another aspect that otherwise has been too well known but it is for the first time that it is now in the public domain. It is the support from NRIs.

The NRIS were thanked for financial and logistical support from 2017 Assembly election onwards and hope was expressed that this support would continue.

The rebel leaders would start their campaign beginning with obeisance at the Golden Temple. All the 22 districts would be covered beginning with Hoshiarpur from August 12.

Interestingly, Khaira himself admitted during his speech that it was his unceremonious sack as the Leader of the Opposition that provoked him.

His sack was the culmination of the differences with the Delhi leadership simmering since party chief Arvind Kejriwal tendered unqualified apology to former revenue minister Bikram Singh Majithia as it was felt by the state leaders that it had blunted attack on Akalis. This apology, however, was not in isolation  but part of the tactics by Kejriwal to get disengaged from several similar court cases of defamation.

It is now to be seen whether Khaira succeeds in retaining these MLAs with him or not.

These MLAs would have to abide by the party whip in the Assembly as violation would lead to disqualification.

Technically, Khaira and his supporter MLAs would continue to be with AAP and abide by all technicalities.

The last time such a situation arose was in 1999 when 11 MLAs in Tohra camp rebelled against Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal but not technically. They were sacked from the party.

Two of the four AAP MPs from Punjab have been under suspension but they were not sacked. It is the expulsion from the party that provides space to legislators to function independently.

This would be the limitation with Khaira group.


Jagtar Singh


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