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Bickering opposition to ensure easy winter session for Amarinder’s government

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The focus of the upcoming session of the Assembly is going to be targeting AAP’s leader of opposition Sukhpal Singh Khaira.

Chandigarh: The ruling Congress party in Punjab is looking at a “comfortable” three day upcoming session of the Vidhan Sabha from November 27 to 29 with their two opposition parties – the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) — all set to slug it out among themselves.

The Akalis are ready to launch a full blown attack on the leader of the opposition – AAP’s fiery MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira – over his alleged links with convicted drug smugglers. The AAP, prepared to defend Khaira is expected to launch a counter attack on the Akalis for the alleged involvement of their leaders in illegal drug trade.

For Khaira, however, his first session as leader of opposition could be the toughest challenge of his political career. He is under severe attack from both the Akalis and the ruling Congress after a district court issued non-bailable warrants against him in a trans-border drug smuggling case.

Last Tuesday, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) President Sukhbir Singh Badal led a delegation to the Punjab governor to demand Khaira’s sacking. Khaira, though putting up a brave face, is clearly on the defensive, saying that under no circumstances will he quit under pressure from the Akalis and Congress.

On 1 November, a court in Fazilka district issued non-bailable warrants against Khaira, his private security officer (PSO) and personal assistant (PA), and two others in a drug case registered in March 2015.  Among the nine convicted in the case, was also a Congress leader known to Khaira – Gurdev Singh, a former chairman of market committee, Dhilwan.

The court ordered that Khaira along with the others be present before it on the next date of hearing, in addition to directing the police to submit a supplementary charge-sheet against them.

Khaira moved the Punjab and Haryana High Court challenging the lower court orders on the grounds that summoning him in a two-year-old case in which the main accused had already been convicted was a “classic case of political vendetta”.

A High Court bench while staying the operation of the non-bailable warrants against Khaira, however, allowed the proceedings of the trial court to continue against him.

The Akalis, on their part, termed the high court order as Khaira’s “indictment” in the case, and demanded his immediate resignation. Sunil Jakhar, the Congress chief in the state and an MP, also asked Khaira to resign as leader of opposition on “moral grounds”.

As a result, Khaira is facing the heat from within his party too. After three AAP MLAs and some office bearers publicly sought his resignation over the issue, on 7 November, he held a press conference with 14 of the party’s 20 MLAs as a “show of strength”.

The development also comes as a big embarrassment for AAP, which had been peddling the issue of rampant drugs use in the state in the run up to the assembly elections earlier this year. The party had especially intensified its attack on former Akali minister Bikram Singh Majithia for his alleged links with drug lords.

Hitting back, Khaira demanded the “immediate arrest” of Majithia after a Human Rights lawyer Navkiran Singh moved an application in an ongoing drug related case, demanding that Majithia speak up on his role in the infamous Rs 6,000 crore drug trafficking case involving Jagdish Bhola. The High Court has issued notice to the Punjab government for 28 November.

“I dare Sukhbir and his Akali cronies to stage a dharna outside the house of Bikram Majithia and demand his arrest due to glaring evidence against him,” he said.

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