AAP cracking up!
Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav may be forced to leave the party after the differences remain unresolved
Sadiq Naqvi Delhi
Barely a fortnight after Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) was swept to power when it knocked out the BJP in the Delhi state elections, sharp differences have surfaced in its top leadership. So serious is this rupture that it is a matter of time when key leaders announce their exit from this two year old party.
“Arvind Kejriwal wants Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan out of the decision making body of AAP,” a source close to the lawyer, activist and senior AAP leader Prashant Bhushan, told Hardnews. “Kejriwal has made it clear that it is either them or him,” the source adds.
Insiders say there was a lot of drama at the party’s National Executive meeting on February 26. “It seemed like the party has been divided into three camps,” an insider says referring to the different set of supporters of Kejriwal, Yadav and Bhushan. It is learnt that Kejriwal threatened to resign as the convener of the party after objections were raised on why he was clinging on to two posts. Expectedly, the move was opposed by everyone.
These differences in the top leadership are not just in style, but also deeply ideological. Kejriwal, wants to present himself as post ideology and does not want to be identified with known leftist leaders like Bhushan. During the run up to the polls, Bhushan had aired his views on the selection process that allowed 12 candidates with dodgy background to get party ticket. Two of them were changed, but the rest 10 were allowed to contest.
Bhushan has also been demanding a robust mechanism for inner-party democracy, candidate selection and transparency in the party, a demand which has not gone down well with Kejriwal who wants a bigger say in the decision making process. “There were problems in the selection of candidates which is why we had to remove two of our candidates. One candidate fled within four hours of being selected. There were also problems in transparency during candidate selection. We didn’t adhere to the principles of transparency which we had announced for candidate selection this time. These are the systems which need to be set right, systems of transparency, systems of accountability, systems of inner-party democracy and system of listening to the voice of the volunteers. We need to have a proper system of having transparent voting on certain things amongst the volunteers or members of the party,” Bhushan told Hardnews in an interview two days after the National Executive meet in Delhi.
There were also differences on how the party should expand. While Kejriwal believes that the party should focus on Delhi, there are others including Yadav, Bhushan and his father Shanti Bhushan who feel that the party needs to expand its base and that the decision cannot be taken by the central leadership. “In a party which believes in Swaraj and decentralization of power, the decision to whether contest eight elections, at least local elections within states should be left to the state unit. Everything cannot be decided centrally and that too by a small group of people sitting at the centre because the real stakeholders for that are the state units. They should be able to decide these things,” Prashant Bhushan told Hardnews.
Sources say Bhushan is also upset on the appointment of former journalist Ashish Khetan as the vice-chairman of the Delhi Dialogues Commission, a new body formed by the Delhi government. “After the Essar email leaks, many journalists including an editor were forced to resign. Khetan happens to be one of the persons who it appears planted a story in favour of Essar when he was working with Tehelka news magazine. Bhushan, who has filed a PIL in the Supreme Court asking for a CBI probe since this matter came to light, thinks that it will send out a wrong message if Khetan was allowed to continue in this important position,” the source close to Bhushan says. The Essar issue pertains to leak of emails showing how this company was peddling influence amongst parliamentarians, bureaucrats and journalists. It is well known that Bhushan was instrumental in getting Khetan joining the AAP.
The activist lawyer is also said to be upset the way a coterie has been formed around Kejriwal. Leaders like Manish Sisodia, Ashutosh, Sanjay Singh and Khetan are said to be part of the inner-coteriel. “There have been complaints against an AAP leader from UP for accepting money though no evidence has been found against him. His close aides, however, were caught asking for money during the Lok Sabha elections.” Phone transcripts of this transaction were going around in AAP circles for sometime, the source adds.
Meanwhile, Admiral Ramdas, the ombudsman of the AAP has also written a letter urging the leaders to resolve the conflict. "During the past six to eight months there has been an abject breakdown in communications and mutual trust amongst the topmost leadership of the party. This has in my view led to the growth of two camps within the party and loose talk about conspiracies. This is unacceptable and shows that we are no different from any of the parties whom we criticise so vocally." Ramdas wrote.