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Trouble for AAP in Punjab Now, Party Disowns Sukhpal Khaira’s ‘Sikh Referendum’ Call

The party said it did not directly or indirectly support ‘Referendum 2020’, allegedly promoted by a Canada-based Sikh organisation.

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Updated:June 17, 2018, 8:49 AM IST
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Trouble for AAP in Punjab Now, Party Disowns Sukhpal Khaira’s ‘Sikh Referendum’ Call
Sukhpal Singh Khaira. (Facebook)
Chandigarh: Facing backlash for its leader Sukhpal Singh Khaira’s support to a referendum to let Sikhs decide whether they want to secede from India, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) distanced itself from the controversy.

The party said it did not directly or indirectly support ‘Referendum 2020’, allegedly promoted by a Canada-based Sikh organisation.

The recent controversy comes in the wake of the sit-in by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his three cabinet colleagues at the L-G's office, which has snowballed into a national issue.

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had criticised Khaira, who is Leader of Opposition in the Assembly, for backing a proposed referendum.

The ruling Congress in the state had asked AAP chief Kejriwal to make his stand clear and sack Khaira if he did not agree with his views.

Even while backing ‘Referendum 2020’, Khaira maintained that he stood for India’s unity.

The AAP joint statement said the party believed in the Constitution and did not support any activity against the unity and federal structure of the country.

It added that Khaira’s statement could be his personal view and the party would seek a clarification from him.

On Friday, Khaira had said, “I support the Sikh Referendum 2020 movement as Sikhs have the right to demand justice against atrocities suffered by them.”

Facing backlash, he tweeted to the chief minister on Saturday, claiming that Amarinder had not got his facts right.

“I am surprised a leader of your level is tweeting against me without checking his facts. I am not a votary of 2020 but I don't hesitate to point out a consistent policy of discrimination against Sikhs by central governments! Be it attack on Darbar Sahib, genocide of Sikhs leading to 2020,” he tweeted.

In a statement, Amarinder Singh said Khaira seemed to be indulging in political antics without any sense of the history of Punjab or any realisation of the possible consequences of his statement.

In a joint statement, other Congress leaders sought a clarification from Kejriwal on whether he subscribed to Khaira’s stand.

“You must sack Khaira from the party and if you do not do that it will amount to your consent and concurrence to the anti-national designs of Khaira,” they said.

Shiromani Akali Dal leader Bikram Singh Majithia termed Khaira’s statement a “proof of the divisive politics played by the AAP”.

BJP leader Manoranjan Kalia accused Khaira of “doublespeak” by simultaneously supporting the referendum and owing allegiance to the Constitution.

“Declaring support for referendum 2020 by Khaira establishes his links with secessionists supporting Khalistan,” the former minister said.

The Punjab chief minister dismissed as hypocrisy Khaira’s claim that he stood for India's unity while supporting the campaign, terming it a classic case of “running with the hare and hunting with the hounds”.

Questioning if Khaira’s statement had the backing of the central leadership, he alleged it was important considering Kejriwal himself was hobnobbing with pro-Khalistanis when he campaigned in Punjab in the run-up to the assembly elections.


(With PTI inputs)


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