In a major embarrassment for Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), two of its MLAs from Punjab who arrived in Canada on a private visit on Sunday were denied entry into the country and sent back to India soon after they landed at the Ottawa airport. The two legislators are Kotkapura MLA Kultar Singh Sandhwan and Ropar MLA Amarjit Singh Sandoa. According to a report in The Indian Express, the duo was reportedly detained and questioned by Canadian immigration officials before being sent back. It said that officials had detained them at around 9 am (IST) and interrogated them about their purpose of visit to the North American country. Later, they were put on Air Canada flight to Delhi.
Speaking to the daily, Kejriwal’s party confirmed that two of its MLAs were sent back after being questioned at the airport by immigration officials.
“What we have learnt is that both were to stay with the sister of Kultar Singh Sandhwan in Ottawa and she was waiting to receive them. However, after hours of questioning, she was informed that both were being sent back,” Sudeep Singla, AAP spokesperson in Toronto, told IE.
“We tried to speak to Canadian authorities but could not,” Singla replied when asked why the AAP MLAs were denied entry. The AAP leader added that exact circumstances can only be known after speaking to the lawmakers.
AAP’s Punjab unit co-president Dr Balbir Singh said that both the leaders had taken permission from the party before leaving for Canada on a private visit. “We will only find out what happened after they get back,” Singh said.
Meanwhile, Sukhpal Singh Khaira, Leader of Opposition in the Punjab Assembly has convened a meeting of party MLAs on Tuesday to discuss the development and other issues related to the functioning of the party.
According to the IE report, Sandoa is facing allegations of molestation by a woman. A Punjab court had framed charges against him last Friday, just a day before he left for Canada. The case against Sando was registered by the Ropar police in July last year on a complaint filed by Tarminder Kaur, who had rented her house to the AAP leader in October 2016. It is not known if this was the possible reason for sending him back. The other MLA does not have any criminal case pending against him.
Kamal Garg, AAP social media manager based in Vancouver, said that “while Sandhwan was able to satisfy Canadian authorities on the purpose of his visit, Sandoa could not because he is not fluent in English”.
“It was possible that one of the MLAs said something about political meetings while speaking to Canadian authorities,” a senior party leader told the daily.
The repatriation of the AAP MLAs comes in the backdrop of the Congress-led Punjab government accusing the AAP’s state leadership of being ‘close’ to separatist Sikh outfits overseas and backing the ‘Referendum 2020’, a campaign launched by the US-based organisation ‘Sikhs for Justice’.