Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has come out in full support of his Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) colleague and Punjab counterpart Bhagwant Mann, who has been hit with barbs by rivals over the arrest of Punjab Congress MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira in a drugs case.
At an AAP event in Patiala, Mr Kejriwal made it clear his party’s interest can’t be overridden by the dynamics of alliances, though he did not mention the Congress.
“Three-four days ago a very big man was arrested in a case of drug smuggling. His party leaders are questioning why Bhagwan Mann took such a step. I want to tell everyone, we are not against any party or leader. We are against drugs,” Mr Kejriwal said.
“My appeal to all parties is to support us in this fight against drugs. If someone in your party is a drug addict, then expel him. If there is anyone like this in our party, we will also expel him,” Mr Kejriwal said, without naming the party or the leader.
The AAP chief’s comment comes as Congress MP Rahul Gandhi visited Punjab today and offered prayers at the Golden Temple in Amritsar. The tension between the Punjab Congress and the AAP over the arrest of Mr Khaira in a 2015 drugs case is out in the open now.
“There was a time when Punjab was known as the land of addiction. They even made a movie, Udta Punjab. Everyone in the country thought Punjab was the drugs capital of India. I don’t say the drugs problem has been fully solved. We have a lot of work to do. But the way the Punjab Police and the state government has been carrying out the war on drugs for the past three-four months, everyone across the nation is talking about it,” Mr Kejriwal said.
Several Congress leaders have indicated they do not want an alliance with the AAP in Punjab in the national election next year.
Both the AAP and the Congress are part of the newly formed opposition bloc INDIA to fight the national election together next year. The state dynamics of the INDIA members, however, are a different story altogether. The AAP and the Congress are rivals in many states.