Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's apology to SAD leader for accusing him of drugs trade pushed the party's Punjab unit into a crisis as the state leadership contemplated breaking away and forming a separate unit, saying the "meek surrender" was painful and very unfortunate.
Kejriwal's apology to former Punjab minister Bikram Singh Majithia triggered upheaval in the state unit as AAP's Punjab unit president Bhagwant Mann and co-president Aman Arora resigned from their posts.
Mann tweeted, "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 (sic)."
In a further jolt, the Lok Insaf Party (LIP), AAP's ally in the state, announced to break its alliance with the party in the wake of Kejriwal's apology.
"We have announced to break our alliance with the AAP. We cannot be associated with a party whose main leader meekly surrendered by tendering apology to former minister Bikram Singh Majithia," LIP leader and MLA Simrjeet Singh Bains said.
AAP state unit leaders also said they were now facing allegations whether Kejriwal had entered into an understanding with the Shiromani Akali Dal by tendering apology to Majithia in a defamation case.
Kejriwal also earned the wrath of the ruling Congress and SAD-BJP leaders, who accused him of being in the habit of making false allegations against his opponents to garner votes.
A two-round marathon meeting was held by the Punjab unit of AAP here in which a resolution on splitting from the Delhi unit and forming a separate unit was discussed, though a final decision was deferred.
As many as 20 MLAs, including two legislators of the LIP, took part in the meeting in the morning, even as a few MLAs stayed away from the second round of the meeting held in the evening.
"All MLAs condemned the apology tendered by Kejriwal without consulting the state leaders. This has made party's position in Punjab untenable and our party volunteers, constituents and even NRI supporters are very upset. Discussion took place on what should be our next course of action, what is the next option for us.
"Two to three resolutions were kept, which were discussed thoroughly. One among these was whether we should split from the Delhi unit and form a separate unit or should we continue like this. Consensus could not be built on this even though majority MLAs wanted to break away. The members said they were very angry with this apology.
"Therefore, decision on this has been deferred for the time being," senior AAP leader from the state Kanwar Sandhu said.
To a related question, Leader of Opposition Sukhpal Singh Khaira said the apology has been condemned across the party's state unit.
"A vast majority of the leaders was of the view why a separate unit of Punjab AAP should not be formed which will have alliance with Lok Insaf Party and also forge alliance with like-minded parties and can even go to the extent of having former Punjab unit convenor Sucha Singh Chhotepur on board..," Khaira said, adding decision on this has been deferred for the time being.
Kanwar Sandhu said, "We also decided that future meetings with our leadership from Delhi be held in Chandigarh".
On LIP breaking ties with the AAP, Sandhu said, "They too are upset with Kejriwal's decision and said they cannot support him anymore, but they have assured their continued support to the state unit to raise the issues concerning people of Punjab."
"Kejriwal may have apologised, but our state unit will continue its fight against drugs," Sandhu said, adding, "Our stand remains unchanged, we demand that CBI probe drug racket case and if involvement of any political leader is found, that too should be probed by the CBI."
To a question, he said that some party MLAs did not attend the second round of meeting due to some preoccupation, but they are standing by the decisions taken in the meeting.
Mann, who was in Delhi, and senior leader H S Phoolka also said they would support whatever decision AAP leaders from Punjab take, Sandhu said.
AAP MLAs were also of the opinion that Kejriwal should not have tendered an apology when he himself led the charge against Majithia on drug issue during the 2017 Punjab Assembly polls.
Among other issues, drug abuse was a major issue in the Punjab Assembly elections last year, he said.
"Kejriwal was leading the charge... In such circumstances, Kejriwal's apology was painful, very unfortunate. It is like our big leader while showing psychological weakness, has surrendered," Khaira said.
Khaira said that he was getting numerous messages from volunteers and that he wanted to ensure them that whatever decision is taken, would be in the interest of Punjab.
Seeking to control the damage, AAP's Punjab in-charge Manish Sisodia said the party leadership will talk to state leaders to solve the issue.
"We fight for the people on streets. It is not our work to fight in court. However, we will fight for people in court," Sisodia said, adding, "If we spend time in court, then how we will be able to spare time for the people?"
Punjab Cabinet minister Navjot Singh Sidhu accused Kejriwal of "murdering" the AAP in Punjab by his apology, while Union Minister and BJP leader Vijay Sampla said the Delhi CM can go to any extent to "grab power".
Former chief minister and SAD patriarch Parkash Singh Badal said by tendering apology, Kejriwal has admitted that he had made false accusation against Akali leader.