The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is in a tight spot after senior party leader and Leader of Opposition in Punjab, Sukhpal Singh Khaira, triggered a controversy by extending support to hardliners who are demanding a referendum on Khalistan by 2020.
Khaira recently said that those who are demanding the referendum are living in independent countries and that the demand is the outcome of the injustice which was meted out to Sikhs during the past 34 years in India.
Those demanding a referendum are within their right. The injustice meted out to Sikhs during the last 34 years has compelled people to make a demand like this. You give justice to anti-Sikh riot victims you will come to know that the justice exists in India. We have nothing to do with referendum. But can you stop people living in independent countries? Their sentiments were hurt so whatever they are doing, they are doing within their rights.
- Khaira had said on Friday
Reacting to his statement, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh slammed the Aam Aadmi Party and asked party president Arvind Kejriwal to clarify his stand on the referendum called by Khalistani groups.
Mr Arvind Kejriwal, I strongly condemn the statement of your LOP Sukhpal Khaira supporting Referendum 2020 which aims for Punjab to secede from the Indian Union. Please clarify your stand on this and ask your partymen to act responsibly. Do see what this Referendum stands for?
- Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh on Twitter
Punjab CM took it to Twitter and posted a photo.
Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh slams Aam Aadmi Party | Photo from Twitter: @capt_amarinder
In a statement, he 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 his statement, the Punjab Chief Minister said Khaira seemed to be completely unmindful of what the state had been through and the dangers of his ill-thought statement.
He 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 hares and hunting with the hounds".
Singh also demanded to know whether Khaira's statement had the backing of the AAP central leadership. This was important considering Kejriwal himself was hobnobbing with pro-Khalistanis when he was campaigning in Punjab in the run-up to the Assembly elections last year, he alleged.
The AAP leadership should clarify their stand on the sensitive issue, which has the potential to plunge Punjab back into the dark days of terrorism, the CM said.
The Congress leaders said those fuelling secession via the "referendum" were sitting comfortably thousands of miles away in the west, while trying to set Punjab on fire and push the youth toward disaster by using people like Khaira.
Other Congress leaders from Punjab, including Ramanjit Singh Sikki, Harminder Singh Gill and Hardev Singh Ladi, in a joint statement demanded Khaira's resignation and sought clarification from AAP chief and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, asking him 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.
- Congress leaders from Punjab said
Meanwhile, Shiromani Akali Dal leader Bikram Singh Majithia termed Khaira's statement as a "proof of divisive politics played by AAP".
Bharatiya Janata Party leader Manoranjan Kalia said Khaira "double speaks" by supporting simultaneously the referendum as well as owing allegiance to the Constitution and supporting a united India.
Kalia said it was an "open secret" that the campaign is a brainchild of Sikhs for Justice, a secessionist organisation headquartered in Canada.
Declaring support for Referendum 2020 by Khaira establishes his links with secessionists supporting Khalistan.
- Manoranjan Kalia said
Amid the barrage of criticism, Khaira today responded to the Punjab Chief Minister in a tweet.
I am surprised that a leader of your level is tweeting against me without checking his facts. I am not a votary of (Referendum) 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.
- Khaira on Twitter
In his tweet he also attached a photo.
Khaira denied supporting the Referendum | Photo from Twitter: @SukhpalKhaira
He also denied the allegations and said that his statement was twisted. He said he had clearly mentioned that neither he nor his party was in favour of the referendum.
Party's vice-president Aman Arora said Kahira made the statement in his personal capacity. "We don't endorse such views. The Aam Aadmi Party has nothing to do with his statement. The party believes in the Indian Constitution,.
- Aam Aadmi Party's vice-president Aman Arora
After drawing flak for categorically supporting the Referendum for the creation of Khalistan, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Sukhpal Singh Khaira clarified that he had never supported the cause.
Why is there demand for Referendum? It's because govts of India always held an anti-Sikh attitude. Demands are in response to policy of discrimination. I request govt they work on their mistakes so Sikh community feels secure in India.
- ANI quoted SS Khaira, AAP on Referendum 2020 (Khalistan)
The Aam Aadmi Party on Saturday distanced itself from Khaira's controversial statement.
More on Aam Aadmi Party:
4 non-BJP chief ministers meet over Arvind Kejriwal's protest
Delhi drama: Kejriwal's sit-in enters day 6, CM fears 'forced' end of dharna
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