Plunging the AAP Punjab unit into deeper crisis, eight of the party's 20 MLAs today came out against the decision to remove firebrand leader Sukhpal Singh Khaira as the Leader of the Opposition and demanded that it be reviewed.
The party has appointed Dirba MLA Harpal Singh Cheema, a Dalit face, as new Leader of the Opposition in the Punjab Assembly replacing Mr Khaira, who had been made the LoP a year back.
Mr Khaira paraded at a press conference here eight party MLAs who backed him and wrote a letter to the party high command about present situation in the AAP Punjab unit and sought its intervention to resolve the crisis in the interest of the state and its people.
Mr Khaira, MLA from Bolath, too described his removal as the Leader of the Opposition (LoP) "undemocratic", and sought review of the decision by the party high command.
"I was not interested in becoming the LoP... But they (party high command) took an undemocratic decision (to remove him as LoP) and they will have to review that. They should review it," he told media in a defiant mood at a press conference here after being removed as the LoP yesterday.
"One or two persons through tweet cannot take a decision," he said apparently referring to AAP leader Manish Sisodia's tweet yesterday mentioning that Mr Khaira has been removed as the LoP without assigning any reason for the same.
Mr Khaira said the party high command did not follow the convention in removing him from the post.
"The convention is that the views of MLAs should have been taken (before any
decision)," he said.
Rejecting suggestion that his move was anti-party, he said that there is a crisis in Punjab unit of the AAP and need it to strengthen the party at this juncture.
In the 117-member Punjab Assembly, the AAP, which is the main opposition, has 20 legislators.
Party MLAs including Kanwar Sandhu, Pirmal Singh, Nazer Singh, Jagdev Singh and Rupinder Kaur Ruby were present on the occasion and they demanded that party should review its decision to remove Mr Khaira as LoP.
A volunteers' convention will be held in Bathinda on August 2 where the issues facing Punjab and crisis which the AAP is facing in the state will be taken up, senior leader Kanwar Sandhu said.
Punjab AAP Co-president Balbir Singh, had, however, welcomed the move, saying it was a decision of legislators of AAP from the state.
Mr Khaira's removal came days after he had accused Balbir Singh of making false allegations of accepting money from party workers in a bid to remove him from the post of the Leader of the Opposition in the Punjab Assembly.
Mr Khaira also reached out to other MLAs who were not present, saying he understands their situation, but would appeal to them to stand with him as he has taken up the cause to fight for people of Punjab.
"In today's political culture which is full of sycophancy, full of money power, goondaism, I am indebted to the MLAs who have come in my support," he said.
"I don't have any regret of being removed as the Leader of Opposition. I am here to serve and protect the interests of people of Punjab. If one has to pay price for raising voice
for Punjab, its people and issues which the state faces, then I am willing to sacrifice hundreds of such LoP posts," he said.
Sandhu said the AAP in Punjab is passing through a crisis and Mr Khaira was removed from the post by the high command without any notice or warning.
He said eight party MLAs have together petitioned to AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal and Sisodia to intervene to resolve the crisis in the party in the interest of the state and for
Sandhu demanded the "undemocratic" decision of removing the LoP must be reviewed.
MLA Nazer Singh said that he received a communication from Sisodia saying that he should sign a letter as they have decided to remove LoP.
"I suggested the high command to convene a meeting of party MLAs...serve show cause notice (to Khaira), but such procedure was not followed," he said.
"I was pained at learning that Mr Khaira was removed as LoP yesterday," he said.
MLA Jagdev Singh also echoed similar sentiment.
The eight MLAs, however, clarified that they will remain part of the party and would strive hard to strengthen it.
Mr Khaira said not only party activists, but people aligned with SAD and Congress have expressed their sympathies with him after AAP leadership removed him as LoP.
He assured that he would continue his fight against mining, drug, land, transport, liquor mafia and corruption.
Mr Khaira said that six different cases registered against him during the SAD regime had fallen flat in the courts.
He said that when he launched a scathing attack to fight tooth and nail the Amarinder Singh government he was framed in a concocted case.
"Conspiracies were hatched against me...but it pains when I learnt that some people within my own party opened fronts against me," he said.
Mr Khaira said that there were chain of events against him and he knew who were conspiring against him. He said that he had apprehended that he may be removed as LoP.Talking about his party, he said AAP's graph is down but they will work to strengthen it.
He gave a clarion call to like minded parties to come together to strengthen third alternative, which the AAP has emerged.
Mr Khaira reiterated that they will strengthen the party. "It is time to move forward with a strong will," he said.