Sukhpal Singh Khaira at a press conference in Punjab Vidhan Sabha | Getty Images
Sukhpal Singh Khaira at a press conference in Punjab Vidhan Sabha | Getty Images
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Khaira, who was removed as leader of the opposition in the Punjab assembly, has the support of 8 MLAs and is rumoured to be contemplating splitting the party.

Chandigarh: As the crisis within the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Punjab deepens following the removal of Bholath MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira as leader of the opposition, party chief and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal has called a meeting of the MLAs supporting Khaira in Delhi Sunday evening.

Khaira, who was in Barnala Sunday morning to muster support for the 2 August volunteers’ convention announced by him and the eight MLAs backing him, has decided to meet Kejriwal, and is on way to Delhi for the meeting.

Khaira and the MLAs met in Ambala Sunday afternoon to assess the situation and decided to meet Kejriwal. Some of those who attended the meeting said it was decided they should take this opportunity and make their position clear to the party high command.

Why Khaira was removed

The party had removed Khaira as leader of the opposition in the assembly Thursday, replacing him with Dirba MLA Harpal Singh Cheema. Khaira had criticised the party’s Delhi leadership for falling prey to the designs of the Congress-SAD-BJP.

Khaira’s removal came in wake of his recent outburst against the party’s state co-president, Dr Balbir Singh. Khaira had, on 20 July, through a 14-minute video message on his Facebook page, taken on Balbir, alleging that the latter had been spreading allegations that Khaira had “gathered money” during his meetings with party workers.

Balbir had reacted to Khaira’s video saying that the entire matter was internal and should be discussed only on the party’s forum. He said no one, including Khaira, should have gone public through social media about the party’s internal matters.

Addressing the media Friday, Khaira backed by eight MLAs (out of 20), announced that though the party had been unfair to him, he would not leave the party. He announced that he and the MLAs would hold a convention of the party’s volunteers in Bathinda on 2 August.

“We need to listen to what the volunteers of the party, who are the real strength of the party, have to say,” he said.

However, the move was seen as a bid on Khaira’s part to put up a “show of strength”. It is also being speculated that he and his MLAs may split the party that day if he is able to muster enough support from party volunteers and other leaders.

Damage control

The party high command too is said to have started damage control immediately. The MLAs supporting Khaira are being coaxed to isolate him. Balbir has said that he will not be attending the volunteers’ convention organised by the Khaira group, adding that party members attending the convention will be acted against.

Apart from the ‘rebel’ group which is slated to meet Kejriwal Sunday, other MLAs opposed to Khaira or neutral towards him will be meeting Kejriwal Monday. MLAs Dr Baljinder Kaur and Kultar Singh Sandhwan have announced that they will not attend the convention as it was not a “a programme organised by the party”.

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