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HC reprieve for Khaira in drug case, but party storm builds up against him

Chandigarh, November 6: The Punjab and Haryana high court on Monday stayed the non-bailable warrant issued against Punjab’s leader of opposition Sukhpal Khaira in a drug case.

Khaira had moved the HC, challenging his summoning in a drug case by a Fazilka court. In his petition, the AAP leader had said that the summoning in the two-year-old case was “politically motivated”. He also questioned the trial court why he was being summoned when the trail had concluded and the main accused been convicted.

Khaira’s name had come up in the case after arrest of some drug smugglers by police in Fazilka in 2015. The court had summoned Khaira for November 30 along with four others, including his PA and personal security officer, under Section 319 of the CrPC.

Even as HC stayed the NBWs issued against Khaira, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) plunged into a fresh crisis in Punjab as differences cropped up among its state leaders over the continuation of Khaira as the leader of opposition.

Some AAP leaders expressed support for Khaira, while a section of the party, including legislators Baljinder Kaur and Sarvjit Kaur, sought his resignation. Talwandi Sabo MLA Baljinder said he should quit on moral grounds. The differences emerged 48 hours after state AAP president Bhagwant Mann declared that all party leaders are with Khaira.

Taken aback by the demand for his resignation from within the party, Khaira accused certain AAP leaders of hobnobbing with rival parties due to ego and jealousy. “They are proxies of some central leaders trying to settle scores. I’ll take up the issue with the party leadership,” he said.

The differences in the state party leadership came to the fore when AAP leader Himmat Singh Shergill told a TV news channel on Sunday that if he were in Khaira’s place, he would have resigned. Shergill posted a video on Facebook on Monday, saying that he hadn’t asked for Khaira’s resignation.

“We are with him,” he said, offering legal help.

The AAP leader to seek the Bholath MLA’s resignation was Capt Bikramjit Singh Povindia, a former convener of the ex-servicemen wing of the party. “Why can’t he (Khaira) step down? We can’t wish away our responsibility simply by declaring this to be politically motivated,” he wrote to party convener Arvind Kejriwal last week.

The AAP has been plagued by infighting that has intensified after its dismal showing in the Gurdaspur Lok Sabha byelection last month.

In October, Kejriwal asked top state leaders – Punjab unit president Bhagwant Mann, co-president Aman Arora and Khaira – to work together.

Last week, too, the party leadership asked them to bury their differences. The central leaders, who met legislators and office-bearers of the party’s state unit in Delhi on Thursday, told them to team up and focus on the municipal elections in December.

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