Political News: The arrest of Congress MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira following in a drug smuggling case is set to a create a rift in the opposition coalition INDIA.
A tug-of-war has started between the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Congress in Punjab over this matter. While the BJP party has also took dig at this alliance over this issue.
Congress leader Khaira accused the AAP and Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann of being “thirsty for blood”. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he kills me physically,” he said, while the AAP government claimed that Khaira’s arrest was made on the basis of “fresh evidence” in the 2015 Fazilka drugs case. State Health Minister Dr Balbir Singh said, “The law is same for all. No matter who is a member of the party”.
On the other hand, Punjab Congress chief Amarinder Singh Raja Warring condemned the action, calling it a “political vendetta”.
Warring said the recent arrest of Punjab Congress MLA Sukhpal Khaira clearly shows that AAP is settling score with opposition using government machinery, which is an attempt to intimidate the opposition.
It is a ploy of the Punjab government to divert attention from core issues, said Warring.
Meanwhile, the case comes amidst the ongoing tussle between the units of the two parties in Punjab, who have not agreed to join hands for the opposition’s alliance INDIA at Centre level.
AAP vs Congress a set back to INDIA alliance
Although AAP and the state Congress leadership at the loggerheads, both are members of the opposition alliance INDIA, which is trying to defeat Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led NDA in the five state elections this year and the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
The national leadership of the AAP and the Congress may be pulling in for the India faction, but Khaira’s arrest has exposed regional rivalries. In such a situation, it can be difficult, if not impossible, for the two parties to work together for the elections, especially during the election campaign.
Seat sharing discussion before the elections
Pertinently, now the question is whether AAP and Congress will be able to forget their differences for the ‘amicable distribution’ of 13 Lok Sabha seats in Punjab? The emphasis on “amicable means” is because so far state leaders have opposed any attempt at seat-sharing.
Khaira’s arrest is significant. He has been one of the most vocal people against any alliance with the AAP in the state. He is also the national president of the Congress’ kisan cell. Therfore, it would be interesting that how both leadership ameliorate the situation.
Earlier, Punjab minister Anmol Gagan Mann claimed that Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann had insisted that AAP would contest all the 13 seats on its own and refuted the reports of alliances with Congress in Punjab.
Impact on opposition alliance beyond Punjab?
Punjab seats are not the only focus for the opposition alliance. The AAP and the Congress were also expected to share seven seats in Delhi and 26 seats in Gujarat. That is, 46 seats were to be divided.
Significantly, the BJP won 33 out of 33 seats in Delhi and Gujarat and four out of 13 seats in Punjab.
The Congress may have won eight seats in Punjab, but since then the party has also suffered defeat from the AAP in last year’s state elections. Likewise, if AAP and the Congress would not be able to dissipate the difference in Punjab leadership soon, the BJP is likely to gain benefit in Punjab and Delhi in the forthcoming elections.