The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is facing a split in Punjab following party supremo Arvind Kejriwal’s apology to Shiromani Akali Dal leader Vikram Majithia over “unfounded” drug trade allegations.
While two top AAP Punjab leaders — state president Bhagwat Mann and co-president Aman Arora — resigned in protest against Kejriwal’s apology, at least 15 of the 20 party legislators are in favour of the move to defect from the AAP and form an independent unit in the state with “like-minded” people.
In another fallout of Kejriwal’s written apology to Majithia on Thursday, AAP’s only alliance partner in the country, the Lok Insaaf Party (LIP) broke the tie-up over the “betrayal of Punjabis” by the AAP chief. The LIP is having two legislators in the Punjab Assembly and had pre-poll alliance with the AAP.
LIP president Simranjit Singh Bains said Kejriwal had “back-stabbed” the people of Punjab with his apology. He said 15 AAP legislators were in favour of breaking from AAP and they would be welcome to join the LIP.
Reacting sharply to Kejriwal’s apology to Majithia, party legislators held meetings in Chandigarh to decide their course of action.
Leader of the Opposition Sukhpal Singh Khaira said almost all of party legislators were in favour of breaking away from the AAP and form an independent unit “for the sake of Punjabis”.
“There was a consensus to form a new unit, but some of the legislators wanted to speak to Kejriwal before taking the decision,” he said, adding that the decision to this effect had been deferred for now.
Khaira said a decision would be taken in consultation with all party workers, the people of Punjab and like-minded people in other parties to protect the interest of Punjab and the Punjabis.
“Is it imperative for Punjab leaders to be under Delhi leaders? We want the people to let us know their desire. We will take a decision in the state’s interest,” he said.
Khaira said all MLAs were unanimous that Kejriwal should have taken them into confidence before tendering an apology to Majithia. “This apology is a big issue. You can’t dilute your stand for the reason that your don’t have the money to fight the defamation case against Majithia. This is not justified. We all are saddened with this,” he said.
Earlier, Mann said he was “resigning as a president of AAP Punjab”. “But my fight against drug mafia and all kind of corruption in Punjab will continue as an ‘Aam Aadmi’ (common man) of Punjab,” the Sangrur Lok Sabha constituency, tweeted.
Party’s Punjab leaders could hardly suppress their anger over the developments. Leader of the Opposition and senior AAP leader Sukhpal Singh Khaira took to Twitter to vent his disagreement.
Another senior AAP leader Kanwar Sandhu also reacted sharply and tweeted: “Arvind Kejriwal’ apology to Bikram Majithia in the defamation case on drugs is a let down to the people, especially the youth of Punjab. We in Punjab have not been taken into the loop. Our fight for Punjab continues.”
Majithia had filed a defamation case against the AAP chief and others following the allegation of drug trade made during campaigning in the Punjab assembly elections.
Apologising to the leader, the AAP convener had said, “I hereby withdraw all my statements and allegations made against you and apologize for the same.”
He also said that he has now learnt that the allegations were “unfounded” and the damage caused to Majithia’s esteem and the loss caused to him was regretted.