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AAP rebel Sukhpal Khaira hints at forming ‘third front’ in Punjab with Akali dissidents

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Rebel AAP leader Sukhpal Khaira says they are in talks with dissident Akalis and are also looking to align with Panthic leaders in Punjab.

Chandigarh: The Aam Aadmi Party’s Punjab unit is headed towards a split with suspended party rebels digging their heels in and hinting at forming a “third grand alliance” with “like-minded people” in the state.

The rebels have rallied around the former leader of opposition Sukhpal Singh Khaira, who along with Kharar MLA Kanwar Sandhu, was suspended from the AAP last week for “continuing with anti-party activities”.

On Monday, Khaira said his group, which includes eight of the 20 AAP MLAs in Punjab, is in talks with dissident Shiromani Akali Dali (SAD) leaders such as Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, Ranjit Singh Brahmpura and Sewa Singh Shekhwan.

“If they have realised their mistake and have apologised to the panth (for the handling of the 2015 desecration incidents), they can come with us,” he told the media Monday.

The press conference came in the backdrop of a feeble attempt at a patch up last month that failed. It also led the party’s Delhi unit to announce five candidates for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections in the state.

The eight rebel MLAs, who revolted in July after Khaira was unilaterally removed as the leader of opposition, have since been holding their own activities in the state such as organising rallies and protests. The rebel faction has also created a political affairs committee (ad-hoc PAC) in consonance with the party’s constitution.

Also read: AAP Punjab unit appears headed for a split, Khaira & supporters to reject Delhi’s control

Rebels may join hands with panthic organisations as well

The AAP rebels also appear to be benefitting from the turmoil in the Akali Dal. Of the three leaders that the rebels are in talks with, senior Akali leader and MP from Khadoor Sahib, Ranjit Singh Brahmpura, has resigned from all party posts.

He along with two other taksali (old guard) leaders — former MP Ratan Singh Ajnala and former cabinet minister Sewa Singh Sekhwan — have revolted against party president Sukhbir Singh Badal and his brother-in-law Bikram Singh Majithia.

At Monday’s press conference, which came after the rebels held a meeting of their PAC, Khaira said that besides the Akalis, the group will align with some panthic organisations for the proposed third front.

Khaira’s group has made common cause with Sikh radical groups and panthic leaders staging a continuing protest morcha at Bargari village demanding action against those responsible for the killing of two Sikh youth there in police firing in 2015.

The two youth were part of protests against the desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib that year. The Akalis were then in power in the state.

Suspended AAP MP from Patiala, Dr Dharamvira Gandhi, who has formed the ‘Punjab Manch’, and Lok Insaaf Party (LIP) MLAs the Bains brothers are already with Khaira’s group.

Also read: I swear upon God, I don’t know what the 2020 Khalistan referendum is: AAP leader Khaira

‘Suspension unconstitutional’

Khaira and Sandhu, flanked by the MLAs, Monday also termed their suspension as being “unconstitutional”.

Reading out passages from AAP’s constitution, Sandhu said they had been suspended by the party’s core committee but its constitution had no provision for a core committee.

Sandhu further said that the party is supposed to have a PAC in the state that was never created by the Delhi leadership.

“We (the rebels) created an adhoc one in accordance with the constitution,” he said, adding that any action against a party member has to be done by a disciplinary committee, which does not exist in Punjab.

“The findings of the disciplinary committee are then sent to a Lokayukta who deliberates on the committee’s findings and announces his judgment regarding action, if any, to be taken against the erring member. This procedure was not followed in our case,” Sandhu said.

The rebels, however, said that they have now decided to start disciplinary proceedings against the AAP leaders who suspended them.

“We have formed a three-member disciplinary committee under Sandhu that will look at the so-called core committee’s working leading to our suspension,” said Khaira. “The proceedings of the disciplinary committee will be sent to the Lokayukta who will then decide what action is to be taken.”

Dr K.S. Aulakh, the former vice-chancellor of Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), Ludhiana, will be the Lokayukta, Khaira said.

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