Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal has publicly reaffirmed his commitment to the INDIA bloc, at a time the already shaky ties with the Congress have come under strain over the arrest of an MLA of the party in AAP-ruled Punjab.
Asked at a media conference about the impact that the arrest of Congress MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira by the Punjab police in a narcotics case would have on the new alliance, Kejriwal replied: “AAP is committed to the INDIA alliance. AAP will not leave the alliance under any circumstances. We are committed to following the dharma of the alliance.”
The Delhi chief minister added: “The Bhagwant Mann government… is committed to finish off narcotics as it has finished off a whole generation…. In the war against it, no one will be spared, big or small.”
Kejriwal said he did not have details about Khaira’s case, nor did he name him. Khaira was AAP’s legislature party leader in Punjab before he split to form the Punjab Ekta Party in 2019 and later returned to the Congress in 2021. Before joining the AAP in 2015, Khaira was with the Congress.
The case, initially against Gurdev Singh, an alleged associate of Khaira, dates back to 2015 when the Akalis were in power. AAP had called it a fake case when Khaira was with the party. The Supreme Court had stayed proceedings on the police case. However, Khaira was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate in 2021 in a related money-laundering case for which he was later granted bail.
Asked about seat-sharing for the Lok Sabha polls — on which state units of the AAP and the Congress have locked horns in Delhi and Punjab — Kejriwal said: “Give it some time, I think it will happen.”
After the alliance came into being in July with the AAP on board, Congress leaders in Delhi and Punjab spoke out against a tie-up with the party. In Delhi, matters settled after Arvind Lovely — considered to be in favour of an alliance — was made Congress chief. In Punjab, however, after the war of words escalated between the two parties, chief minister Mann hinted earlier this month that he prefers the AAP to go it alone.
In the absence of concrete assurances from the Congress, the AAP has upped the ante by aggressively campaigning in tribal areas of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, where the Congress hopes to gain over the BJP in the upcoming Assembly polls.