Punjab MLA Khaira arrested, sent to 2-day police remand; Cong alleges political vendetta
Congress MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira was arrested here on Thursday by the Punjab Police in connection with a 2015 drug trafficking case, triggering accusations of political vendetta by his party against the ruling AAP in the state.
A Congress delegation led by Punjab unit chief Amrinder Singh Raja Warring met Governor Banwarilal Purohit in the evening, complaining about the "fake case", as the rift widened in the state between the two parties.
Both are part of the opposition INDIA bloc that seeks to put up a united fight against the BJP in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. The BJP too has criticised the arrest.
The MLA from Bholath was produced in a court in Fazilka's Jalalabad and remanded in police custody for two days. The police had sought a seven-day remand.
A team led by Superintendent of Police Manjeet Singh reached Khaira's Chandigarh home around 6 am, and his son went on Facebook Live. The video showed the MLA arguing with the police team, asking it to produce an arrest warrant.
He also asked police officers to show their identity cards.
The MLA was told that he was being arrested under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act case.
When Khaira asked the team where he was being taken, a police official told him that he was being taken to Jalalabad in Fazilka.
Khaira was arrested on the basis of an investigation conducted by a special investigation team led by Deputy Inspector General of Police Swapan Sharma.
Following the arrest, Khaira hit out at the Punjab chief minister, saying, ''He (CM) was thirsty for my blood, everybody knows it,'' Khaira, who has been critical of the AAP government on several occasions, said he was arrested in a "fake" case. ''It is not politics of 'badlav' (change) it is a 'badle dee rajniti' (politics of revenge).'' The Congress MLA further said he was summoned in the case despite the Supreme Court staying the trial court proceedings against him in 2017.
He also accused the BJP-led Centre of getting him arrested in a money laundering case in 2021.
AAP leader Malvinder Singh Kang, however, said Khaira was found to be involved in drug smuggling and that is why he was arrested.
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 in 2021 on the charge of money laundering linked to the 2015 case. He was granted bail in 2022.
In February 2023, the apex court quashed the summoning order against Khaira in the 2015 drug trafficking case.
In the wake of Khaira's arrest, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge said his party will not tolerate injustice.
''I will take its details...But whatever may be the case, if someone does injustice, they don't survive for long. If anyone does injustice to us, then we are not the ones who will tolerate it,'' he said.
Punjab Congress leaders, including Warring and Leader of Opposition Partap Singh Bajwa, condemned Khaira's arrest, who is the chairman of All India Kissan Congress, and called it a political vendetta.
Warring visited the residence of Khaira after his arrest and met his son Mehtab Khaira and other family members. He said they stand by the Bholath MLA.
The Punjab Congress chief questioned the police action, asking what kind of probe was conducted by the Punjab police which led to Khaira's arrest after eight years.
''It shows that 'jungle raj' is prevailing in the state,'' Warring said and questioned the absence of Chandigarh Police during the Punjab Police action.
Bajwa slammed Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann, alleging "dictatorial" dispensation and said the party will fight for the release of Khaira.
The BJP too accused the Aam Aadmi Party government in Punjab of misusing its powers and working with a spirit of revenge, hours after Khaira was arrested.
BJP national general secretary Tarun Chugh echoed the Congress' criticism of the arrest of Khaira.
A government which came in the name of ''transformation'' is misusing its power and is continuously doing politics based on revenge, which is unfortunate, he said, replying to a question on the arrest.
The drug case was registered in March 2015 at Jalalabad in Fazilka. Nine people including Gurdev Singh, who was allegedly a close aide of Khaira, were booked in the case and later convicted under the NDPS Act.
Police had recovered 2 kg 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.
Khaira's arrest came amid talks of seat sharing between the members of the opposition INDIA bloc.
The Punjab Congress has already opposed any alliance with the ruling AAP in the state for the general elections.
Replying to a question, Kang said as far as the question of the INDI alliance is concerned, there will be no compromise by the AAP on corruption and drug smuggling issues.
He also rejected the allegations of political vendetta, claiming that the action against the Bholath MLA was taken as per law.
Following Khaira's arrest, he was produced in a court in Fazilka's Jalalabad which sent him to a two-day police remand. Police had sought a seven-day remand.
(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)