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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)

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BJP Holds Arvind Kejriwal Responsible For Sanitation Worker’s Death

According to police, he had gone to clean the drain but got trapped in the silt and garbage in the drain

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The new move the Arvind Kejriwal's party denounces the concept of digitalization
The new move the Arvind Kejriwal's party denounces the concept of digitalization

The BJP on Monday held Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal responsible for the death of a sanitation worker in a drain saying that the government was playing with their lives as they are not given protective gear.

“This is not the first time that such an incident has happened. Due to the negligence of the government, sanitation staff goes for cleaning sewers and dies there after inhaling toxic fumes. They are never saved even after rescue operations,” Delhi BJP Chief Manoj Tiwari told reporters here.

His remarks come a day after a sanitation worker choked to death after he got trapped inside an underground drain while cleaning it in north Delhi’s Jahroda area.

The work of cleaning the drain was being carried out by the Delhi government’s flood control department.

Sanitation workers are our helpers and Kejriwal government is playing with their lives ,www.thestatesman.com

“Sanitation workers are our helpers and Kejriwal government is playing with their lives,” he said.

Highlighting the deaths of sanitation workers in Delhi in the past few years, the BJP MP from the North East Delhi Lok Sabha constituency said that in September 2018, five sanitation workers died while in August 2017, 10 died inside sewers.

“Kejriwal is responsible for the deaths of sanitation workers who die while cleaning sewers and the investigating agencies should take action against him,” he said.

Attacking Kejriwal, Tiwari said, “During the last three to four years, more than 60 workers have died.”

Arvind Kejriwal giving speech suring chanda bandh satyagrah
Arvind Kejriwal giving speech during chanda bandh satyagrah

He also accused Kejriwal of not fulfilling his promise of providing safety equipment to sewer workers and mechanical sweeping.

A senior Delhi Police official said that it has registered a case under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code over the death of the sanitation worker.

The sanitation worker has been identified as Kishan, 37, a resident of north Delhi’s Wazirabad area.

Also Read: Arvind Kejriwal Accuses Modi Government of Betraying Farmers

According to police, he had gone to clean the drain but got trapped in the silt and garbage in the drain.

His body was taken out from the drain by a team of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) late on Sunday night. (IANS)