Tue. May 21st, 2024

The arrest of Sukhpal Singh Khaira, a Congress MLA and office-bearer, on charges of drug smuggling and money laundering, has sparked a heated dispute in Punjab. The ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is countering claims of “political vendetta” by Khaira’s party and facing attacks from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Khaira has accused the AAP and Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann of being “thirsty for blood.” He even declared that he would not be surprised if they physically eliminated him. The AAP government has claimed that “fresh evidence” in a 2015 case led to Khaira’s arrest. Health Minister Dr Balbir Singh emphasized that the law applies to everyone regardless of political affiliation.

The arrest holds significant implications as AAP and Congress, although rivals at the regional level, are partners on the national stage as members of the INDIA bloc. This bloc aims to defeat Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP in five state polls scheduled for this year and the 2024 Lok Sabha election.

However, Khaira’s arrest has brought regional rivalries to the forefront, potentially hindering cooperation between the AAP and Congress, especially during the campaign for next year’s general election. Seat-sharing has been a significant focus for INDIA, particularly whether the two parties can divide Punjab’s 13 Lok Sabha seats harmoniously.

State leaders have been reluctant to divide the seats. Punjab Minister Anmol Gagan Mann claims to have received “directions” from Chief Minister Mann, insisting that the AAP will contest all 13 seats independently, while Congress leader Mr Warring stated that they would not act without their consent.

Khaira’s arrest is significant as he has been vocal against any alliance with the AAP in Punjab. He holds the position of Chairman at the national level for the Congress’ Kisan Cell and is both a party office-bearer and lawmaker. The Congress’ central leadership has yet to comment on the matter.

The impact of this dispute extends beyond Punjab. The AAP and Congress were also expected to divide seven seats in Delhi and 26 in Gujarat, a total of 46 seats. It is worth noting that the BJP won all 33 seats in Delhi and Gujarat and four out of 13 in Punjab. While the Congress won eight seats in Punjab, the party was subsequently defeated by the AAP in last year’s state poll. The AAP has faced heavy criticism from both the BJP and Congress since their victory.

If the AAP and Congress fail to overcome the fallout from Khaira’s arrest and collaborate, the BJP will likely be favored to win the majority of seats in Punjab and Delhi, potentially sweeping Gujarat once again.

The INDIA bloc’s appeal, which offers a viable alternative to the BJP, is facing challenges due to rifts like this one. The Communist Party of India (Marxist), for example, has ruled out seat-sharing in Bengal and Kerala.

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By admin