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Dissident AAP MLAs plough lonely furrow in Delhi Assembly

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New Delhi: They don’t thump their desks when their colleagues do so after a thunderous speech an AAP legislator nor do they join the chorus against the minuscule opposition BJP in the Delhi assembly.

Despite being among the staggering 67 Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the 70-member assembly, they don’t seem to belong to the party.

Once the foot soldiers of the AAP, four legislators – Asim Ahmed Khan, Jitender Singh Tomar, Colonel Devinder Sehrawat (retd) and Pankaj Pushkar – now sit disaffected and disillusioned in the ongoing assembly’s winter session.

These legislators, who have fallen out of favour with AAP convener and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal for reasons ranging from graft to dissidence, have been the least participative during the session of the House.

The legislators, who sit together in the last row, have been sorely indifferent to what their party colleagues do in the assembly – whether it is the tabling of “historic” bills or protesting against Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) member O P Sharma for his sexist remark against AAP leader Alka Lamba.

On November 26, when a bulk of AAP lawmakers upped the ante against Sharma by massing near the speaker’s podium, they looked reluctant to join. To show solidarity, Khan, Tomar and Sehrawat merely stood up from their seats.

But when the sloganeering against Sharma grew louder and one of the visibly agitated AAP called them to join, they ambled towards the podium.

But, it was only Col. Sehrawat who pumped the air with his fist once and quickly slipped his hand into his trouser pocket.

Pushkar kept sitting and flipping through a document.

“It’s not that I am not with them (AAP). I am 50-years-old and I have a status. It won’t look nice if I protest in the well (speaker’s podium),” Tomar told IANS.

“Things look good only in limits. What’s the point in protesting when the matter has been referred to the ethics committee,” Tomar said, referring to Sharma’s remark against Lamba.

Sharma was suspended for the entire winter session and his case was referred to the assembly’s ethics panel but the AAP legislators kept protesting and demanded he be jailed.

Pushkar echoed this view.

“I am most obedient to the constitutional system. And I am the most active in the assembly,” Pushkar maintained.

“Why should I be the part of protest which is foolish? Once you have sent the matter to the ethics committee, how can you demand jail for him,” he asked.

Col. Sehrawat and Khan could not be contacted for their views despite several attempts.

Interestingly, Pushkar has been active only in opposing his party’s proposed bills in the assembly – so much so, that Speaker Ram Niwas Goel had to suspend him for two days.

The legislator, who openly supported Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav when they were expelled from the AAP, has taken on the party on various issues.

Like Pushkar, Col. Sehrawat too had rallied behind Yadav and Bhushan at the time of their expulsion in March, pitting himself against the party.

Tomar, whom the AAP shielded in the fake law degree case for a long time, was left to fend for himself after his arrest. He was asked to resign as the law minister.

A miffed Kejriwal had said that Tomar kept him in the dark.

Kejriwal summarily sacked Khan as the food minister during a press conference for demanding a bribe. Khan had said that he was the a “victim of internal politics”.

(IANS)

Next Story

Sukhpal Singh Khaira’s Exit Raises Questions Over AAP’s Future in Punjab

Though the damage done by the party to itself in the last three years will be known after the forthcoming parliamentary elections, it will be a sad day for people in Punjab who saw AAP as a third viable option but were let down by the party itself

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File photo: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal with Deputy CM Manish Sisodia.

The recent exit of politically outspoken leader Sukhpal Singh Khaira from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) fold in Punjab, at a time when general elections are around the corner, has raised a question mark over the party’s political future in the state.

It is not that Khaira, who was elected on the AAP ticket in the February 2017 assembly polls, was indispensable for the party in Punjab.

His exit, however, has shown that the AAP central leadership in Delhi continues to be unaffected by the self-created crisis in the Punjab unit that began in August 2016.

Khaira, who was suspended from the AAP along with another legislator, Kanwar Sandhu, in November 2018 for “anti-party activities”, last week floated a new party – Punjabi Ekta Party (PEP) – and has given enough indications of splitting the AAP down the middle.

Six AAP legislators in the state were present at the launch of the new party even though they did not share the stage with Khaira.

The AAP’s Punjab unit is in complete disarray – be it the leadership crisis, lack of political direction or agenda or the complete disillusionment of its cadre.

Max hospital
Arvind Kejriwal.

It’s not the first time that the AAP central leadership has committed political harakiri with the Punjab unit. It has become clear now that the AAP central leadership, instead of letting the Punjab unit take on the ruling Congress and the SAD-BJP alliance, ends up shooting itself in the foot every time.

Khaira was earlier unceremoniously removed as Leader of Opposition (LoP) by the AAP central leadership in July 2018. He openly rebelled against the party high command by dissolving the the AAP’s Punjab organisational structure and seeking complete autonomy for the state unit.

The AAP ousted its then Punjab unit chief, Sucha Singh Chhotepur, on flimsy bribery charges in August 2016, just months ahead of the assembly polls.

Chhotepur, who nurtured the party right from the day of its conception in Punjab, was shown the door after the emergence of a video clip in which an AAP worker was shown giving money to him. Even before this, Chhotepur was being sidelined in Punjab affairs with Delhi leaders like Sanjay Singh and Durgesh Pathak calling all the shots.

As the Chhotepur episode unfolded, AAP leaders at the constituency and district level rebelled. Chhotepur, who accused the AAP central leadership of corruption in allotting tickets for various assembly seats, finally exited the party and formed a new political outfit – the Apna Punjab Party (APP) that has practically remained a non-starter.

The AAP appointed actor-comedian Gurpreet Ghuggi, with no political experience, as its state convener in place of Chhotepur. Ghuggi left the party on a sour note just months later.

Two AAP MPs from Punjab, Dharamvira Gandhi and Harinder Khalsa, were suspended in August 2015 for questioning the AAP’s leadership style.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal with Delhi’s Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia. Flickr

Gandhi, a cardiologist and known social worker, is the MP from Patiala constituency, while Khalsa, a former diplomat, represents Fatehgarh Sahib in the Lok Sabha. Gandhi was also unceremoniously removed from the post of leader of AAP in the Lok Sabha.

The AAP, which was completely rejected elsewhere in the country in the April-May 2014 general elections, won four Lok Sabha seats from Punjab – Sangrur, Patiala, Faridkot and Fatehgarh Sahib.

The AAP started the year 2016 on an upswing. Poll surveys and the party’s own political calculations gave it anything from 75 to over 100 seats in the 117-member assembly.

The party, however, finished second and managed to end up as the main opposition party with 20 legislators. One legislator, lawyer-activist H.S. Phoolka, resigned from the assembly seat recently and even quit the AAP.

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With Khaira’s exit, his status as a legislator and the future of the six legislators who seem to be in his camp, will be seen in the coming months.

The party, which is the newest entrant on Punjab political scene – dominated largely by the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal and the Congress over the decades – is facing as much a challenge from its implosion.

Though the damage done by the party to itself in the last three years will be known after the forthcoming parliamentary elections, it will be a sad day for people in Punjab who saw AAP as a third viable option but were let down by the party itself. (IANS)