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AAP turmoil: Rebel MLAs to go ahead with ‘anti-party’ convention

Ranjeet Jamwal | Chandigarh |

With the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) declaring the August 2 volunteers’ convention in Bathinda as ‘anti-party’, stage appears to have been set for a showdown between AAP leadership and party’s rebel members of legislative Assembly (MLAs) seeking autonomy for the Punjab unit following the decision to sack Leader of Opposition Sukhpal Singh Khaira.

Delhi deputy chief minister and AAP’s Punjab affairs in-charge Manish Sisodia had on Monday warned that the volunteers’ convention, called by nine of party’s 20 MLAs including Khaira, was an anti-party activity and warned action against those attending the same.

But refusing the bow to the party high command’s diktat, rebels MLAs on Tuesday made it clear that they will go ahead with the convention, which they intend to use as their show of strength and underline that majority of AAP leaders and office bearers in Punjab are with them.

In a tweet, Khaira – who is leading the group opposed to the appointment of Harpal Singh Cheema as new leader of Opposition, Sisodia’s action has again displayed Delhi leadership’s dictatorial attitude.

“By terming our 2 August meet as anti-party activity, Mr Sisodia has vindicated our charge of dictatorial attitude. If we Punjabis can’t hold a simple meeting on our soil then how will we safeguard the interests of Punjab. The AAP meet at Bathinda will settle the issue for once and all,” Khaira said in the tweet.

Another important member of the rebel group, MLA Kanwar Sandhu said the AAP volunteers’ convention will be attended by 12 to 13 MLAs.

“We are not slaves. Can’t we hold convention of volunteers who are seeking answers from us for issues like (AAP national convernor Arvind Kejriwal’s) apology to (Shiromani Akali Dal leader) Bikram Majithia and Khaira’s removal. We want to explain these things to our volunteers,” Sandhu said at a Press conference.

Maintaining that the rebel group has no intention of forming another party or breaking AAP Punjab, the Kharar MLA said all they want is autonomy for the state unit, but nobody (in high command) is paying heed to our demand for a long time.

“First then AAP Punjab president Sucha Singh Chhotepur was sacked on charges which are still to be proved. The next state president Gurpreet Singh Waraich was also removed and now Khaira who did well as leader of Opposition was also removed without consulting the MLAs,” Sandhu said.

“Punjab MLAs should be given the right to take the decision concerning the state,” he said, adding that culture of high command imposing decisions on state unit should be stopped.

Meanwhile, AAP’s Patiala member of Parliament Dr Dharamvira Gandhi, who continues to be under suspension from the party for over two years, also demanded autonomy for the AAP Punjab unit from the party’s central leadership but made it clear that he won’t attend the Bathinda convention.