Arrest of AAP critic Khaira puts INDIA in Punjab in jeopardy

Khaira was arrested in connection with a 2015 drug case where police had recovered two kilograms of heroin, 24 gold biscuits, one country-made pistol, a .315-bore pistol and two Pakistani SIM cards.

Ranjeet Jamwal

Ranjeet Jamwal

The Statesman


File photo of Congress leader Sukhpal Singh Khaira. PHOTO: TWITTER/ THE STATESMAN

September 29, 2023

NEW DELHI – Sukhpal Singh Khaira, the Congress legislator, whose arrest in a drug case has put the two Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) partners, the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the main Opposition Congress on a confrontation course, is a bitter critic of Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann and top AAP leadership.

A three-time member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) from Bholath, Khaira, who was earlier with the AAP and led a group of six dissident MLAs to form a splinter group in 2018 before joining the Congress, has been targeting the AAP Government and its leadership on daily basis.

In his last post on X, Khaira asked AAP leader Raghav Chadha to explain how he managed to gift a four-carat diamond ring to his newly-wed wife Parineeti Chopra as its price was 10 times more than his declared income.

Prior to this, he had shared a video of Chadha’s wedding and questioned the “dazzling cavalcades of today’s brand of Aam Aadmi like Arvind Kejriwal, Raghav Chadha, Bhagwant Mann & Co who once vowed not to take government accommodation, car, etc. and to end VIP culture, now not only have broken their vows but have become new VVIPs of India!”

In another post, Khaira recently described top AAP leaders as “farzi inqlaabi” (fake revolutionaries) because “they’re biggest hypocrites in Indian politics”.

Known to spew venom against his rivals, Khaira had earlier attacked party supremo Arvind Kejriwal, alleging that his “dictatorial” attitude shattered the dreams of Indians and the Punjabis of a clean alternative to the decayed and rotten system.

The CM, Mann, had recently said Khaira was one of three-four people in Punjab who hurled abuse at him early in the morning every day. “Their blood has turned black in the process and their complexion is also getting black),” he had said.

Without naming anyone, Khaira earlier submitted “highly objectionable video clips of gross misconduct by an AAP minister” to Punjab Governor Banwarilal Purohit.

Khaira, who had joined the AAP in 2015 after quitting the Congress, was Leader of Opposition (LoP) for about a year in 2018 but was removed by the party after he pressed the demand for an overhaul of the entire structure of the AAP in Punjab.

Khaira, 58, was first elected to the Assembly in 2007 on a Congress ticket. In 2017, he was again elected to the Assembly on AAP ticket. In 2022, he got re-elected on a Congress ticket.

Khaira was on Thursday arrested in connection with a 2015 drug case and sent to two-day remand by a court in Jalalabad. The case was registered in March 2015 at Jalalabad in Fazilka. Nine people were booked in the case and later convicted under the NDPS Act. Police had recovered two kilograms of heroin, 24 gold biscuits, one country-made pistol, a .315-bore pistol and two Pakistani SIM cards from them.

Khaira’s name cropped up later during the police probe. However, in 2017, the Supreme Court stayed the trial court proceedings against Khaira, who was summoned as an additional accused in the matter.

He was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in 2021 on charges of money laundering linked to the 2015 drug case. He was granted bail in 2022. In February 2023, the Apex court quashed the summoning order against Khaira in the 2015 drug case.

The primary accusations against Khaira include supporting an international gang of smugglers, sheltering them and receiving financial benefits from drug traffickers.

According to the investigation agency’s charge sheet, the funds received were allegedly used to purchase properties. Khaira reportedly spent over Rs 6.5 Crore on himself and family members between 2014 and 2020, with expenses exceeding his declared income.

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