Struck by internal differences, the AAP on Monday (March 2) appeared to be threatening to crack the whip against senior leaders like Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan at its national executive meeting on Wednesday, accusing them of attempting to “remove” Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal from the post of party convener. At a press conference in New Delhi, senior AAP leader Sanjay Singh also targeted party patron Shanti Bhushan for his comment in an interview that Kejriwal should be replaced by Yadav.
“Someone from within the party, certain senior leaders are trying to remove Arvind Kejriwal from the post of National Convener, by targeting him and maligning the party,” Singh told reporters in New Delhi. Without naming Bhushan and Yadav, he referred to statements and letters by senior leaders which amounted to making the party a butt of ridicule and a “joke of us”.
Expressing displeasure over the leaking of letters to the media, the Political Affairs Committee (PAC) member, said the issues could be discussed in the party forum rather than bringing them before the public through the media. He announced that the party’s national executive would meet on Wednesday and decide on all issues including the latest controversy over differences in the party.
Singh parried questions when repeatedly asked whether the two senior leaders would be removed from the Political Affairs Committee (PAC). “I have only announced the date for the meeting. Have I announced the decisions that will be taken there,” he said in reply to questions on whether action will be taken against the leaders. Singh said that when at its national executive meeting held last week, Kejriwal had tendered his resignation, it was opposed by members who had insisted that he should continue as the AAP national convener.
“It was decided at the meet last week that Kejriwal will continue as the party chief and there is no question of removing him from the post. If this is the case, then how will the party work? “Will the volunteers like it. Those wanting to remove Kejriwal as party chief should also take the emotions of party workers into consideration,” Singh said. Crisis in the party intensified after Bhushan, in a letter to the national executive last week, said that the “one person -centric” campaign was making the party look like other parties and called for more “swaraj” within the organisation.
Along with Yadav, he also gave a joint letter to the national executive and demanded activation of an ethics and grievance committee. “One person-centric campaign, which was run during Delhi elections, is making our party look more and more like other conventional parties that are also one-person centric. The only difference being that we still claim that we are wedded to the principles of ‘swaraj’ while they don’t,” Bhushan had said in the letter.
The messy revelations coming out of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on how Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan were removed from the party’s highest decision-making body, the Political Affairs Committee (PAC), offers grounds for hope, as yet. Yes, AAP certainly displays the typical characteristics of the Indian political party, subservient to one paramount leader.
Yes, AAP was founded to create an alternative to this kind of politics and it is unfortunate that the party has allowed victory in one state elections to go to its head. At the same time, it would still be premature to write off the experiment as a failure. There is still a chance to redeem the party and the new kind of politics it set out to champion, a fighting chance.
When people differ on strategic questions, they belong to different parties. When they differ only on tactical questions and on who should lead, they belong to different factions of the same party. There is nothing wrong with having factions. The democratic essence of a party is its ability to carry different factions along while it progresses along the strategic direction that all of them agree on and secures greater clarity on which faction is right about either tactic or leadership through debate, discussion and intra-party contestation. It is the Leninist ideal, not any democratic norm, that bars such contestation from involving the public and the party’s support base.
Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan certainly do not have the mass following that Arvind Kejriwal has. Yet, the 11-8 vote split in favour of removing the two leaders from the PAC shows that the intolerance of dissent does not have any overwhelming support within AAP. Yadav and Bhushan will do well to stay put within the party and fight it out to redeem AAP’s founding goals.
Divisions in the Aam Aadmi Party deepened ahead of a crucial meeting of its national executive Wednesday, forcing party leader and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to call it an “ugly battle” in which “I refuse to be drawn”.
But his lieutenants stepped up their attacks on leaders Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan saying they were out to extend a “vice-like grip” on all party wings. Bhushan, on his part, suggested that Kejriwal was open to “make certain compromises in politics”.
Talks were on late Tuesday night in the party to decide the fate of Yadav and Bhushan. An AAP source indicated that despite the harsh words against Bhushan, the leadership is still open to “some form of a reconciliation with him but not Yadav”.
Kejriwal signalled he could skip the national executive meeting — unwell, he plans to leave for Bangalore on Thursday for naturopathic treatment — while Bhushan, though under fire, may attend.
The odds are heavily stacked against Bhushan and Yadav since the Wednesday meeting will be limited to 27 voting members of the national executive where Kejriwal’s supporters are in a majority. AAP spokesperson Deepak Bajpai said: “There are 21 members of the national executive and six state representatives.”
The executive has the powers to elect and change the political affairs committee which has Bhushan and Yadav as its members.Last week, Kejriwal had offered to step down as national convenor of the party but the executive rejected it.As the differences within came out in the open, Kejriwal broke his silence Tuesday to tweet: “I am deeply hurt and pained by what is going on in the party. This is betrayal of trust that Delhi posed in us. I refuse to be drawn in this ugly battle. Will concentrate only on Delhi’s governance. Will not allow public trust to be broken under any circumstances.”
AAP senior Shanti Bhushan, father of Prashant Bhushan, made conciliatory noises: “Differences in the party are not right. Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav should support Kejriwal.”
But his son told NDTV that he had not spoken to Kejriwal in several days and “I feel we have to be absolutely firm on our ethical principles but Arvind differs at times and says we need to make certain compromises in politics.”
AAP leaders hit back at the Bhushans. Ashish Khetan tweeted: “Those who are floating the ridiculous one man party theory wanted to make AAP one family party. Father son daughter trio of Shanti Prashant & Shalini wanted to have a vice-like grip on all party wings, from PAC to policy committee to NE.”
Ashutosh, head of the Delhi unit, also took to Twitter: “Prashant ji should have raised issue of personality cult in NE, to be held tomorrow instead in media. NE should have discussed/taken a call.
NE is highest decision making body/is empowered to decide on any issue/can direct anyone accordingly. Best forum to discuss/decide.”
“Shanti Bhushan ji sud explain why did he say Arvind to be replaced with Yogendra during elections and after NE meet. That is indiscipline. Shanti Bhushan ji should also explain what was the conspiracy to replace Arvind with Yogendra ? Did it not tarnish the image of party,” Ashutosh tweeted.