Amidst the recent rebellion by a group of eight Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) legislators under the leadership of Sukhpal Singh Khaira, the party appears getting ready to counter the rebel group’s propaganda with AAP’s most popular face in Punjab, Bhagwant Mann, in the lead role.
Launching a scathing attack on Khaira, whose removal as leader of Opposition sparked the latest rebellion against party high command at a Press conference, Mann on Tuesday hinted that he was ready to work as state president for “saving” the party in Punjab and bring back disgruntled party workers back into the party fold.
Mann, whose resignation as AAP Punjab president over Arvind Kejriwal’s apology to a Akali leader in a drug case is pending, said he would accept the responsibility after seeking some clarifications from Kejriwal.
Making Khaira and his close aide, Kanwar Sandhu the main targets of his no-holds-barred attack, the Member of Parliament (MP) from Sangrur Mann challenged them to resign as members of legislative Assembly (MLAs), get re-elected and float a new party in order to get the autonomy they were seeking from AAP leadership.
He said both the above leaders were opportunists who were misguiding party MLAs and workers for their own cause. Mann warned party MLAs and volunteers that Khaira and Sandhu were just fighting for the post (leader of Opposition) and would trade them to some other party for self-benefit.
Mann, who was accompanied by Barnala MLA, Meet Hayer, claimed Sandhu had told the AAP’s Punjab incharge to appoint him as new leader of Opposition instead of Harpal Singh Cheema and promised to ensure Khiara’s protest would come to an end.
Breaking his silence for the first time, Mann said AAP was created in Punjab with the sweat and blood of self-less volunteers and it was not Khaira’s personal property.
“AAP leadership was all good for Khaira till he continued as leader of Opposition and the moment he was removed, Arvind Kejriwal (AAP national convenor) became a dictator for him. These people (Khaira and Sandhu) are opportunists and after posts (kursi),” he said.
Mann alleged for their own personal agenda, Khaira was making the party’s latest turmoil into a fight between Punjab and Delhi. “Anyone (AAP MLAs and MPs) who didn’t join Khaira at Bathinda rally are being termed as a traitor. It is being said we betrayed Punjab and its people, but we don’t need a certificate from anyone to prove our loyalty for Punjab. It’s an emotional blackmail,” Mann said.
He said Khaira spent 20 to 25 years in Congress, but didn’t revolt against leadership there even as the party took many anti-Sikh and Punjab decisions.
“There (in Congress), Khaira never demanded autonomy for the state unit. But he is harping on the same ever since his removal as leader of Opposition,” he said.