Sorry Times for Kejriwal as Apology Causes Trust Breakdown in AAP
The news of Kejriwal’s apology to Majithia has come as a stunning blow to the leaders of the party in Punjab.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which has been hurtling from one crisis to another after its stunning victory in the Delhi Assembly elections, is now facing an existential crisis in Punjab. The apology tendered by the party supremo and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to Akali leader Bikram Singh Majithia in a drug-related defamation case, has led to revolt by top state leaders of the party.
Almost all the 20 party MLAs were taken aback by the move as they were kept out of the loop and had no indication that behind-the-scene negotiations had been conducted, leading to the filing of the apology in the court, and simultaneous withdrawal of the defamation case by Majithia.
The news came as such a stunning blow to them that most of them are now considering breaking away from the party.
Udta Punjab: ‘Drug Wars’
Punjab’s drug menace was one of the foremost issues raised by the AAP during the run-up to the campaign for the Assembly elections in the state last year. In fact, the Congress and the AAP had been trying to outdo each other by raking up the issue at all election rallies.
It was then that Majithia had emerged as the mascot of political support for drug trafficking in the state. The dragging of his name was particularly damaging to the Parkash Singh Badal government as, besides being a minister, he is also the brother of Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal and brother-in-law of former Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal.
The charges against Majithia emanated from a statement given by a known drug trafficker Bhola, who had alleged that he was in touch with the politician. After coming under attack, Majithia had hit back by filing a slew of defamation cases against political leaders, media and media persons all across the state. The AAP leaders bore the brunt because they had been the most vocal.
A Badly-Timed Apology Without Consultation
And now, the unqualified apology by Kejriwal has left the state unit of the party in a tizzy. The top state leaders, who were neither consulted nor informed about the move, don’t know where to hide. This was an issue they had been taking up inside and outside the Assembly. They had also been highly critical of the Amarinder Singh government for not taking action against Majithia.
Even within the ruling Congress there is a section, led by cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu, who had been at daggers drawn with Majithia, prompting action against the former minister. He has now renewed his demand for Majithia’s arrest, claiming that Punjab’s Special Task Force (STF) had also indicted him.
Majithia was prompt in holding a press conference and displaying the copy of the letter through which Kejriwal had tendered the apology. He praised the Delhi CM for his “magnanimity and statesmanship”, while distributing copies of the written apology (submitted by Kejriwal in the courts), which stated that the allegations made by the the CM against Majithia were “unfounded”.
An AAP Uprising
Senior AAP leader and Leader of Opposition in the State Assembly, Sukhpal Singh Khaira, was the first to go public with a tweet that said he was “appalled and stunned” by the apology.
Another prominent AAP leader and journalist Kanwar Sandhu tweeted that the apology was a “let down”.
AAP’s state President Bhagwant Mann, who is also a Lok Sabha member, and the Co-President Aman Arora resigned from their posts. Even the Lok Insaf Party, which had an alliance with the AAP and had won two seats, broke off its ties with the latter.
It should be noted that, while the party MLAs are mulling over breaking away and forming their own set-up after examining the issue legally, the AAP has been facing trouble in Punjab from the very beginning.
The party had won just four Lok Sabha seats from Punjab when the Modi-led BJP swept the 2014 elections in the country. The AAP had failed to win a seat even in Delhi, its stronghold.
However, it took just about a year to witness the suspension of two of the four Punjab MPs. Professor Dharamvir Gandhi and Harinder Singh Khalsa were suspended from the party for anti-party activities and continue to remain suspended. They didn’t even campaign for party candidates during the 2017 Assembly elections.
How AAP’s Troubles Began
Shortly before the Assembly elections, the party removed its state President Sucha Singh Chhotepur on the allegations that he took money from a ticket aspirant. Subsequently, the party appointed its leaders from Delhi to finalise candidates. The choice of candidates led to much dismay and resentment among party cadres. Some of the candidates had a shady past or were not known in their areas.
The party, which had claimed that it would win at least 100 of the 117 seats, was able to bag only 20 seats with even its star campaigner and Lok Sabha member Bhagwant Mann, thus, losing the Assembly election.
It was well known that the state unit leaders had not been sharing cordial relations with the central leaders and there was a general lack of communication. It is no surprise, therefore, that there was absolutely no communication or discussion on the apology tendered by Kejriwal. The mutual suspicion and mistrust seems to have reached its breaking point now.
(The writer is a Chandigarh-based senior journalist. He can be reached at @vipinpubby. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)
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