Chandigarh: A day after the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leadership declared the event an “anti-party” activity, the dissident group led by former leader of opposition (LoP) Sukhpal Singh Khaira on Tuesday claimed that 12-13 MLAs have confirmed their participation in its ‘volunteers’ convention’ to be held in Bathinda on August 2.
Kharar MLA Kanwar Sandhu, who is among the defiant legislators organising the convention despite the central and state units distancing themselves from it, said they had invited AAP national convener and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, his deputy Manish Sisodia and all party MLAs in Punjab to the event.
“Of them, 12-13 MLAs have indicated that they will attend the convention in Bathinda. We are hopeful that all party MLAs will attend the volunteers’ meet,” he told reporters at a press conference here, rejecting Sisodia’s statement calling their convention “anti-party”.
He was backed by eight MLAs, including Sandhu, who were present at the press conference where the volunteers’ meeting was announced whereas the party leadership has repeatedly stated that 15 of the 20 legislators had given their consent in writing to Khaira’s removal.
A few MLAs appear to be playing both sides. If Khaira manages to get 12 or 13 MLAs on the dais in Bathinda on Thursday, it will not only be a big boost for his group but also put it in within touching distance of the number required to split the party, giving it a clear tactical advantage.
Any split in the party without attracting the anti-defection law is only possible if 14 MLAs (two-thirds of the total strength) come together to form a separate unit. However, Khaira and other MLAs supporting him have repeatedly said that they will stay in the AAP and work to strengthen it.
Sandhu also said the convention was being held on the demand and pressure of party volunteers who had been asking them about the crisis in the AAP. “In the past one-and-a-half years, the party has got weakened due to steps taken by the leadership without any consultation. The party first lost the general elections despite a strong wave and then its showing in Gurdaspur and Shahkot byelections was disastrous. The graph has been going down continuously,” he said.
The Kharar MLA said they would not only answer the volunteers’ questions and draw their strategy ahead of the panchayat and parliamentary polls, but also discuss the issue of autonomy to the state unit.
Sandhu said he had raised the autonomy issue last year because the way leaders such as Sucha Singh Chhotepur and Gurpreet Singh Ghuggi were treated without consulting anyone cannot be accepted. “The party leadership is supreme but they need to consult the state leaders. We are not rubberstamps ,” he said. He also denied that Lok Insaaf Party (LIP), which is being accused by the AAP leaders of trying to break the party, had anything to do with the Bathinda event.