AAP leaders in happier times - (from left) Yogendra Yadav, Prashant Bhushan, Manish Sisodia and Arvind Kejriwal (file photo)
In most political parties, defeat often brings out the worst in its members. Yet in the case of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) its spectacular victory in the Delhi assembly election last month has surprisingly sparked off a vicious internal war. Two prominent leaders Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan were ousted last week from the party’s Political Affairs Committee (PAC), a key decision-making panel, for criticizing party chief Arvind Kejriwal for running the party as a one-man show.
The party that only a few weeks ago was basking in an unprecedented ‘super’ majority in the Delhi assembly, now finds that the opposition is not the BJP, but within its own ranks. AAP appears to be split right down the middle, with the vote to oust Yadav and Bhushan passing with an 11-8 majority – certainly not the clear vote of confidence that the Kejriwal camp would have wanted.
The Kejriwalites – we can't accuse the party chief himself of being behind the machinations as he is recovering in a naturopathy clinic in Bangalore, no less – have therefore turned out in a big show of force, trying to browbeat the dissenting voices.
Senior leader Mayank Gandhi, who disagreed in a blog post with the manner in which Yadav and Bhushan were shunted out of the PAC – has now revealed that he is being targeted for "upholding transparency".
Then on Tuesday, four senior Kejriwalites accused Yadav and Bhushan of working to defeat the party during the assembly election and of maligning poor Kejriwal’s image.
The statement issued in Hindi by Manish Sisodia, Gopal Rai, Pankaj Gupta and Sanjay Singh claims to list the reasons why Yadav and Bhushan were ousted.
“When AAP volunteers were busy working hard to ensure the party’s victory in Delhi polls, three leaders — Yadav, Bhushan and Shanti Bhushan — were bent on defeating it,” the statement said.
The leaders claimed that Bhushan had allegedly tried to dissuade volunteers from other states to come to Delhi to campaign for AAP and even prevented donors from contributing to the party fund.
As for Yadav, the statement alleges that he deliberately planted stories in the media to malign the image of Kejriwal. It cited as evidence an article in The Hindu that apparently carried a negative portrayal of Kejriwal after Yadav had reportedly met a few journalists informally.
In response to the allegations, Yadav tweeted that truth shall prevail.
“I welcome the statement by 4 colleagues. Begins the possibility of open, transparent dialogue. Truth shall prevail,” he wrote on Twitter.
Yadav told news agency ANI that AAP MLAs were being forced to sign a letter against Bhushan and him.
According to the Hindustan Times, AAP is facing its first major crisis – “a crisis of credibility, of a divided leadership and more importantly, a crisis of ideology.”
“The ideology that the party espouses are of a vibrant inner-party democracy, swaraj and zero unilateralism. But if one were to track the developments of the party over the last two weeks, doubts would certainly emerge of a disintegration in the party’s founding principles,” the newspaper said.
The sidelining of the party’s two prominent leaders – Yadav, a sociologist who played a vital role in the party’s Delhi campaign, and Bhushan, an accomplished lawyer who steered some of the party’s big exposes – clearly shows that AAP is paying lip service to inner-party democracy. It is either Kejriwal’s way or else…
It is ironic that the strong-arm tactics only serve to strengthen the initial criticism by Yadav and Bhushan, that Kejriwal takes unilateral decisions. With the ‘super’ majority that his party enjoys in the assembly, Delhi voters should perhaps be worried. Very worried.