While responding to a media query last month over an allegation levelled by Sukhpal Singh Khaira, Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann seemed clearly perturbed over the persistent criticism levelled against him by the Congress leader on social media.
“Eh tin chaar ne Punjab vich jina tarhke uthke mainu gaalan kadhniyan hundiyan. Ena da khoon sarh sarh ke kaala ho gaya atey rang vi kala hunda jaanda (There are three to four people who hurl abuse at me early in the morning every day. Their blood has turned black in the process and their complexion is also getting black),” he had said in a rather angry tone.
Khaira, the Congress MLA from Bholath who was arrested Thursday by the Punjab police in connection with a 2015 drugs case, has been a strong critic of the ruling Aam Aadmi Party in the state, Mann and Delhi Chief Minister and AAP supremo Arvind Kejriwal.
Volley of allegations
Khaira has been questioning the “Aam Aadmi” credentials of the Kejriwal-led party and questioning the “badlaav (change)” it promised while contesting the February Punjab Assembly elections last year.
His rivalry with CM Mann is not new though. The acrimony between them was in full public display after Khaira, then AAP MLA from Bholath, was removed as leader of Opposition (LoP). He was the leader of Opposition for about a year – in 2018, and led a dissidents’ group to overhaul the entire structuring of the AAP in Punjab.
Mann, who was then representing Sangrur as MP, had hit back, calling Khaira an “e-Neta”, pointing to his presence on social media.
Armed with videos, news reports, and other data, Khaira would go all out in his posts on X to lash out at the AAP leadership, often calling them “farzi inqlaabi (fake revolutionaries)”.
In the past week, he targeted the AAP leadership widely over the “pompous” and “extravagant and lavish” wedding of the party MP in Rajya Sabha from Punjab Raghav Chadha with actor Parineeti Chopra.
Khaira also joined Punjab Governor Banwarilal Purohit in putting the AAP government on the radar over the latter seeking details of Rs 50,000 crore added to the State’s debt along with what he called the AAP’s “cunning & stoic” silence over the “sensational allegations” of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, which triggered a diplomatic row between India and Canada.
From Panchayat to Assembly
Khaira, who started his political journey as a Panchayat member of his native Rampur village before being appointed as Punjab Youth Congress vice president in 1997, is a three-time MLA, twice winning on a Congress ticket and once on an AAP ticket.
Khaira’s father late Sukhjinder Singh Khaira was an Akali stalwart who served as the education minister in Punjab.
Khaira was first elected as MLA from Bholath in 2007 on a Congress ticket. In December 2015, he joined the AAP and was elected as the party legislator in the 2017 Punjab Assembly elections from Bholath. In the run-up to the 2022 Punjab Assembly elections, he rejoined Congress and retained the seat.
After a falling out with the AAP, he formed the Punjab Ekta Party (PEP) in January 2019 and unsuccessfully contested from Badal hinterland of Bathinda in a four-cornered contest involving him, sitting MP Harsimrat Kaur Badal, Amrinder Singh Raja Warring of Congress, and AAP’s Baljinder Kaur. Khaira finished fourth in that election.
Here are some of his recent posts on X targeting Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann, Arvind Kejriwal, MP Raghav Chadha, and the ruling AAP in Punjab:
Khaira’s posts relating to Raghav Chadha’s wedding:
September 27 (9.31 pm)
“Will @raghav_chadha have the decency to clarify how he managed to gift a 4 Carat very expensive diamond ring to his newly wedded wife @ParineetiChopra (more than 10 times his declared income) while his income according to 2020-21 ITR is merely 2.44 Lacs? While she being a celebrity gifted him with a ring of lesser value? What is the truth? Punjab BADLAV wants to know?”
September 27 (6.53 pm)
“Omg just watch the dazzling cavalcades of today’s brand of Aam Aadmi’s like @ArvindKejriwal @raghav_chadha @BhagwantMann & Co who once vowed not to take govt home car etc and vowed to end Vip culture but now not only have they broken their vows but are new Vvip’s of India!”
September 26 (4.19 pm)
“While @BhagwantMann was busy performing Bhangra on the directions of his Delhi masters like @raghav_chadha Punjab was once again robbed of its legitimate rights over our Bhakta Dam ! Delhi once again has arbitrarily appointed its henchman Manoj Tripathi as Chairman BBMB ! I wish @BhagwantMann had objected to such anti Punjab decisions maybe our farmers would not have to suffer the fury of floods that repeatedly devastates their future.”
On Punjab Governor writing to the AAP government seeking details of the additional burden of Rs 50,000 crore
September 25 (8.58 am)
“Is this how @BhagwantMann you’re trying to present a fake pic of RANGLA PUNJAB (Shining Punjab)? The parameters of RBI report are shocking! …only 3.6% of Revenue receipts have gone into Capital Asset Building (NO DEVELOPMENT)… 23,524 Cr spent on repaying interest on loans (50K loan raised by Aap Govt as per Governor letter)… 24.2% Revenue receipts gone into Power Subsidy ! Is this your model of BADLAV @ArvindKejriwal ? Raising loans and squandering on mega publicity,Vip security,helicopter rides etc can be done by any uneducated leader Mr @BhagwantMann show us what have you done to improve the debt situation of Punjab?”
September 23 (11.34 am)
“What is purpose of trying to create a false image of Rangla Punjab by raising a colossal debt of Rs 50K Cr ? One of the reasons for this huge debt is massive expenditure incurred on publicity across India merely for image promotion of @ArvindKejriwal & @BhagwantMann ! Actually nothing has changed during the last 18 months of @AamAadmiParty rule the so called BADLAV is only on paper.”
Other posts by Khaira
September 27 (4.59 pm)
“The case registered against the brother in law of @AamAadmiParty Khadur Sahib Mla Manjinder Singh for illegal mining exposes the false claims of @BhagwantMann that they’ve eradicated mining mafia and corruption in Punjab. The open threat by this Mla directly to Ssp Tarntaran thru social media also exposes that there’s no rule of law in Punjab and how @AamAadmiParty Mla’s are trying to politicize the force. We @INCPunjab demand action against such arrogant Mla’s.”
September 26 (11.02 am)
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“Shocking & sad that @ArvindKejriwal once a RTI activist himself and Magsaysay Award winner himself is killing the spirit of RTI Act 2005 in Punjab under @BhagwantMann by refusing to share allocation Ethanol licenses to powerful politicians-industrialists to an elected representative like me. I had to move the Chief Information Commissioner CIC for directions to Excise & Taxation Commissioner Punjab to provide me the information. So you can imagine how difficult it must be for ordinary citizens to get RTI information from @AamAadmiParty govt if they’re refusing information to Mla’s.”
September 23 (10.51 am)
“I’m appalled at the cunning & stoic silence of @BhagwantMann and @officeofssbadal over the sensational allegations of @JustinTrudeau Pm Canada and his stand off with Indian Government affecting the future of 8 Lac Punjabi’s living in Canada apart from the vilification campaign launched against Sikhs of Punjab by hate mongers. Normally @BhagwantMann has been daily tweeting about frivolous issues but hasn’t uttered a word being the torch bearer of 3 Cr Punjabi’s?”
After this, the Shiromani Akali Dal had hit back, putting out news clippings of the party’s reaction to the issue.