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Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal is facing a revolt in Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) over his apology by to Shrimani Akali Dal (SAD) leader Bikram Majithia, for accusing him of involvement in drug racket.

Kejriwal’s apology came even as Punjab government appointed a two-member panel to examine and suggest action on the special task force (STF) report on the alleged role of former revenue minister and Akali leader Bikram Singh Majithia with drug traffickers.

While AAP’s Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh also voiced disagreement with Kejriwal, AAP’s Punjab unit MLAs held a press conference on Friday, March 16, and slammed Keriwal’s apology. Leader of Opposition in Punjab Assembly Sukhpal Khaira said that Kejriwal’s decision reflects ‘mental weakness.

“Strongly condemn Arvind Kejriwal’s apology to Bikram Majithia. Nobody was consulted before he took this decision. This shows that he has become weak and also raises questions on his talks with Akali Dal. For me welfare of Punjab’s people is most important,” Khaira added

He said that a ‘final decision’ by party MLAs will be taken later in the evening. The MLAs said that all decisions will be taken in Punjab’s favour.

“Many people are unhappy (with Arvind Kejriwal‘s apology to Bikram Singh Majithia). I hope justice will be done as people like BS Majithia deserve to be in jail,” AAP Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh said.

During elections, AAP had made drug abuse in the state as a major issue. Kejriwal, who was leading the AAP, had accused Majithia of being involved in narcotics trade.

Many AAP leaders had reacted angrily to Kejriwal’s decision to apologise to Majithia as soon as they came to know of it. “I fail to understand the timing of Kejriwal’s apology when STF of PB has stated to the High Court today that there’s substantial evidence to proceed against Bikram Majitha on the issue of drugs,” Khaira had said.

“We’re appalled n stunned by the apology of @ArvindKejriwal tendered today, we don’t hesitate to admit that we haven’t been consulted on this meek surrender by a leader of his stature (sic),” Khaira tweeted.

AAP leader Bhagwant Mann resigned from his post as AAP state president. “I’m resigning as a president of AAP Punjab …but my fight against drug mafia and all kind of corruption in Punjab will continue as an ‘Aam Aadmi’ of Punjab,” Mann tweeted Friday. In the past, the Sangrur MP had held Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and the Badal family responsible for bringing drugs to Punjab.

Another senior AAP leader Kanwar Sandhu also reacted sharply.

“Arvind Kejriwal’ apology to Bikram Majithia in the defamation case on drugs is a let down to the people, especially the youth of Punjab. We in Punjab have not been taken into the loop. Our fight for Punjab continues,” Sandhu tweeted.

“I have seen the pain of parents who lost their young ones due to and they blame Bikram Majithia for it. Hereby I still believe that Bikram Majithia was involved in drugs until he is given a clean chit after a thorough independent enquiry by CBI,(sic)” Harjot Bains, the chief spokesperson of Aam Aadmi Party’s Punjab unit was reported to have said.

Aman Arora, co-president AAP Punjab, said that he was ‘shocked and disappointed’ after coming to know about the apology. “Shocked and disappointed to know about the apology tendered by Arvind Kejriwal 2 Majithia. I still believe drugs wud not have taken so much young lives had the previous Govt not patronised drug mafia. Our fight against drugs continues,(sic)” Arora said, according to a report in The Financial Express (FE).

Leaders from ruling Congress also slammed AAP. Navjot Singh Sindhu said, “It is a let down to the people of Punjab. I feel Kejriwal has murdered AAP in Punjab. It is as if their existence has been wiped off. With what face will they speak against drugs in Punjab now?”

Arvind Kejriwal had written to Majithia saying he had learnt that his allegations were unfounded. “In the recent past I made certain statements and allegations against you regarding your alleged involvement in drug trade. These statements became a political issue. Now I’ve learnt that the allegations are unfounded. Hence there should be no politics on such issues. I hereby withdraw all my statements and allegations made against you and apologise for the same,” Kejriwal said.

Majithia spoke to media after Kejriwal’s apology letter. He said he was grateful that ‘truth’ had ‘won’. Majithia added that he did not want to pursue the defamation case filed against him since the AAP leader had “tendered his apology”.

“I thank Kejriwal for showing greatness in seeking apology for his remarks made against me. I have told my lawyers that from our side, this case ends as Kejriwal has sought apology. I have asked my counsels to withdraw the defamation case. Person makes mistake and with the grace of God, if I have the ability to forgive and I will forgive,” the SAD leader said.

“I had said from the beginning that either he will say sorry or he will go to jail. Sending someone to jail is not my intention,” he asserted.

“It is indeed a historical moment that a sitting chief minister has submitted a written apology in court withdrawing all statements he made against me,” said Majithia.

AAP leader Ashish Khetan had apologized as well, he added.

Majithia had filed a defamation case against Kejriwal and two other AAP leaders, Sanjay Singh and Ashish Khetan, in May 2016.

Majithia’s counsel told The Indian Express that the defamation case against AAP leader Sanjay Singh in a Ludhiana court will continue unless Singh himself apologises for the drug dealer remark he had made for Majithia.

AAP alliance partner Lok Insaf Party’s Simarjit Singh Bains, responding to whether they will snap the alliance with AAP, said that Kejriwal’s apology was a “betrayal to people of Punjab”. He added that people would “not bear with it”. “This is a non-issue, probably there is a back-door dealing behind it. Our MLAs will sit together & take a collective decision,” said Bains.

AAP leaders in New Delhi, however, said the move was to shed court cases, in which the party convenor finds himself mired, and hinted that a similar course could be adopted in the defamation case filed by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.

AAP’s Delhi unit, according to media reports, said Kejriwal was facing dozens of civil and criminal cases related to defamation, putting hoardings or posters during election campaigns, violation of Sec 144, public protests etc in Delhi and other parts of India like Varanasi, Amethi, Punjab, Assam, Maharashtra, Goa and many other places.

“Most of these cases require personal appearance in court. These cases have been foisted by our political rivals to de-motivate us and keep our leadership busy in these legal matters. The decision to amicably sort out all such legal cases is a strategy as devised by the legal team of the party. The political cases in Delhi have been put on fast track forcing MLAs andmMinisters to virtually attend cases on daily basis in courts at Delhi and other states,” spokesperson of AAP’s Delhi unit Saurabh Bharadwaj said.

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