Monday January 21, 2019
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Prashant Bhushan dares Kejriwal for public debate on ‘mahajokepal’

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New Delhi: A day after he termed ruling AAP’s 2015 ombudsman Bill “mahajokepal”, former party leader Prashant Bhushan on Sunday challenged Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to a public debate on the Jan Lokpal Bill even as he warned of a stir outside Assembly on Monday when the proposed legislation is tabled.

The senior lawyer said that the agitation will be held under the aegis of Swaraj Abhiyan, a group floated by Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav following their expulsion from AAP. The fledgling outfit, which is a self-professed “non-political” forum, has taken issue with the 2015 Jan Lokpal Bill and has targeted AAP over it.

Although there was no immediate response or reaction from AAP on the gauntlet thrown down by Bhushan, the ruling party has rubbished the Supreme Court lawyer’s claims, charging that he was speaking against the said Bill at the behest of BJP.

“My track record is such that such allegations don’t merit any response,” he said.

Slamming the Bill, Bhushan said, “We were shocked to find that the present Bill is against every principle on the basis of which the anti-corruption movement fought for the institution of Janlokpal. It proposes a Lokpal that is to be completely controlled by the government.”

AAP is claiming that the Bill is identical to the the draft prepared during the Anna Hazare movement and the 2014 Bill that it had tried to introduce in the Delhi Assembly.

“Kejriwal should come and debate this in public. It will expose the fraud with the people of the country and the anti- corruption movement. If you have actually copied from Janlokpal Bill 2014 or Uttarakhand Bill, then what took you so long?

“Why did Arvind keep on tweeting that he is drafting the Bill?” Bhushan asked.

Former Union Law Minister and Prashant Bhushan’s father, Shanti Bhushan, too, hit out at Kejriwal and likened him to Joseph Goebbels, the propaganda minister of the infamous Hitler regime.

“This Goebbels is the CM of Delhi. He had said he will slash the salaries of MLAs by half, but has instead raised it by two-and-a-half times,” charged Bhushan senior.

Bhushan said AAP’s stand reflected the blame-game politics that is commonly associated with parties like BJP and Congress. “AAP’s strategy has become the same,” he alleged.

“I have already filed a petition in Supreme Court for a stronger and more transparent Lokpal at the Centre and for its immediate appointment. What are they saying?” he said.

However, Bhushan, known as an activist-lawyer, said he should not have lashed out at and used harsh words against AAP spokesperson Raghav Chadha during a TV debate over the issue.

“When someone comes up with such allegations and lies brazenly, you naturally get angry. Sometimes there is an outburst, but I still think such outbursts are not correct.
You say certain things out of anger but the circumstances have to be considered as well,” he said.

Reacting to the allegations by the Bhushan duo, AAP spokesperson Ashutosh questioned as to why they and Yogendra Yadav, another expelled AAP leader, did not protest against Prime Minister Narendra Modi for not appointing Lokpal at the Centre.

(With inputs from agencies)

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)