Ending efforts for reconciliation with the rebel group of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Punjab, the Arvind Kejriwal-led outfit on Saturday suspended its two legislators, Sukhpal Singh Khaira and Kanwar Sandhu, for anti-party activities.
Khaira, a former leader of Opposition and member of legislative Assembly (MLA) from Bholath, along with Kharar MLA Sandhu have been spearheading the rebellion against the AAP high command demanding total autonomy for the Punjab unit. They have the support of five other AAP legislators.
In a statement issued from the party headquarters, AAP said Khaira and Sandhu have been consistently indulging in anti-party activities and have continuously attacked Central and state leadership.
The Core Committee of AAP Punjab said it has decided to suspend them with immediate effect after exhausting all the available avenues to assuage them and make them see reason.
The party said that indiscipline and anti-party activities cannot be tolerated at any level and the leaders and volunteers have to follow the rules set by the party.
The AAP’s Punjab unit had plunged into a crisis when the party leadership appointed Harpal Singh Cheema as the Leader of Opposition on 26 July, replacing Khaira.
Its troubles deepened with the rebel group forming an ad hoc Political Affairs Committee (PAC) naming Khaira as the interim chief of the party’s state unit.
An effort was made recently for peace between warring factions but it failed to yield any result as Khaira faction accused the faction led by Member of Parliament Bhagwant Mann, which is loyal to the party high command, of adopting double standards and being insincere.
The Khaira group took exception of the appointment of 14 new officer bearers by the AAP Punjab unit immediately after the first meeting for peace between the two factions. Khaira had said no future talks will be held till the latest appointments are not taken back.
The Khaira group had demanded the dissolution of all organisations of AAP and let the people decide who will be leader of the Opposition.
With 20 MLAs, AAP is the main Opposition party in the Punjab Assembly, but the party has seen sharp decline in its support base due to the infighting in the state unit.
One AAP legislator, HS Phoolka, has resigned from the Assembly in protest against Amarinder Singh government’s failure to take action in sacrilege cases.
All of AAP’s four Lok Sabha members are from Punjab. Two of them, Dharamvira Gandhi and Harinder Singh Khalsa, were suspended from the primary membership of the party in 2015 for anti-party activities.
Gandhi, a cardiologist and social worker, represents Patiala constituency whereas, Khalsa, a former diplomat, represents Fatehgarh Sahib constituency. The other two AAP Lok Sabha members are comedian-turned-politician Bhagwant Mann (Sangrur) and former educationist Sadhu Singh (Faridkot).a