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Aam aadmi party office in Patel Nagar
Aam aadmi party office in Patel Nagar

AAP’s internal rift: Utopia vs Real Politics

[By Narendra Kaushik]

New Delhi: As you look up at Neeti Villa, the three-storied office of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), located about a few hundred metres from Patel Nagar metro station, Arvind Kejriwal’s face and broom stares back at you.

Janata Ka CM‘, a banner tied to an upper floor balcony of the park-facing building shows Kejriwal surrounded by his party supporters.  There are pamphlets hung behind the ground floor railing announcing ‘Paanch Saal Kejriwal’.

A poster right outside the main entrance heralds the return of muflerman with a tag line ‘Beimaano ki karne safai, aa gaya mufler wala bhai’ (mufflerwala brother is here to clean up dishonest).

While the ground and first floors are earmarked for volunteers the second and third floors have offices of Pankaj Gupta, AAP’s National Secretary, Ashutosh, Delhi Convener, Ashish Talwar and other Kejriwal loyalist.

Poster at AAP office's entrance

The office is always buzzing with boisterous voices of Kejriwal supporters.  Its every nook and corner bears unmistakable stamp of Kejriwal, the AAP supremo (phrase borrowed from rebel’s lexicon). There is not even token presence of any leaders who were recently thrown out of party’s National Executive or who have quit afterwards.

There never was.

Yogendra Yadav, Prashant Bhushan, Anand Kumar, Medha Patkar, Rakesh Sinha, Ajit Jha and other volunteers who have jumped the ship in recent weeks never belonged to the party.  They always operated from its margins. They never became its real part.

At least this is how Kejriwal supporters look at it.

“They never laid out mats in programmes. They never adjusted mikes,”

says Sheetal Singh, an AAP volunteer. To make it more explicit, he adds,

“They were never part of the real politics. They lived in utopia.”

Kejri camp alleges blackmail

Singh and other Kejriwal backers allege Yadav, Bhushan and company played ideological anchors to hijack the AAP after Delhi elections. The latter had big thoughts. They could pontificate on television programmes and influence intellectuals in the society.

Singh and other AAP volunteers who Point Blank 7 spoke to term Kejriwal vs. Yadav/Bhusan fight a clash between intellectuals and grassroots politicians. They look at the ouster of Yadav, Bhushan and others from the national council as a decision of the proletariat.

“Our leader has given us the model of real success. Why should we follow utopia?”

asks Anuj Kumar Singh, a volunteer from Bhagalpur (Bihar). Singh is sure the real AAP has spoken against the utopian politics, ideologues and the paratroopers.

Delhi Convener Ashutosh is more direct when he accuses Prashant Bhushan of not having campaigned for the party during the recent Delhi elections.

Ashutosh says Bhushan campaigned for a single candidate in Timarpur and exhorted volunteers from outside Delhi not to work for the AAP. He accuses the Supreme Court lawyer for indulging in indiscipline and having given his ‘silent consent’ to his father Shanti Bhushan who ran down Arvind Kejriwal during run up to the voting day by saying that Kiran Bedi and Ajay Maken were better Chief Minister candidates than Kejriwal.

Since the ouster of Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav first from Parliamentary Affairs Committee (PAC) on March 4 and then from the National Council on March 28, it has become a no-hold barred slugfest between the two camps in the AAP with neither holding any punches.

Yadav and Bhushan have accused Kejriwal of ‘murdering’ democracy’ ‘in the true spirit of Stalinist purges’.

In his address to the National Council, Kejriwal accused the latter of ‘backstabbing’ him.

Old bickering

The ouster of Bhushan and Yadav from the PAC and NEC is a consequence of many months of bickering.It is clear that the duo and Bhushan in particular was opposed to Kejriwal exploring the option of forming an AAP Government again with support of the Congress.

He raised objections to fielding of some dozen candidates many of whom had defected to the AAP from other political parties. Kejriwal camp says the objections were thoroughly examined first by a complaints committee and later by AAP’s Lokpal Committee and two candidates were even dropped from the list. Bhushan’s contention is that Kejriwal gave a go-by to probity and transparency by putting ‘winnability’ on top.

Kejriwal has called it a saga of ‘vaulting ambitions’.

His camp points out that Shanti Bhushan and Prashant Bhushan tried to foist Yogendra Yadav as National Convener of the party in place of Kejriwal.

Kejriwal, apparently, also did not like the way he was forced to put up candidates all around the country during the last general elections and Haryana assembly polls.

More desertions from AAP

The clash is unlikely to abate in near future as number of AAP leaders from its Maharashtra unit are upset with the way the national council bulldozed over dissent in its NC meeting.

More desertions are expected once AAP’s new disciplinary committee comprising Dinesh Waghela, Pankaj Gupta and Ashish Khaitan take a call on throwing Yadav and Bhushan out of the party.  Even AAP leaders and volunteers admit the possibility.

People who were not and are not into real politics will leave. We may lose ten per cent of our membership. But 90 per cent will stay back,

says one volunteer.

What is more worrisome for the AAP is that the growing dissent has shifted focus from Delhi Government. A message has trickled down that the AAP leadership has failed to keep its own house in order, that it resorted to populism to win elections and that it compromised on its anti-corruption, probity and ethic planks by awarding tickets to discards from Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress.

Kejri under cloud

A few of AAP MLAs are those who have amassed wealth from real estate deals over the years. The revelations that Kejriwal arranged fake calls to his party MLAs to defame BJP top brass and tried to cobble together a majority after engineering defections in the Congress has definitely dented his image.

Kejriwal cannot wish away the fact that he and the coterie around him compromised on their much avowed-ideals in fielding winnable candidates.

AAP loses idealism

The exit of socialist like Yogendra Yadav, Prashant Bhushan, Medha Patkar and others will further expose that unlike the Congress and the BJP, the AAP is not bound by any ideological glue.

It is rather a motley group of individuals who swear by different ideologies. For instance, you have Kumar Vishwas who have hidden his appreciation for right wing.

The exit of Yadav, Bhushan and other intellectuals will disrobe the party of the veneer of idealism.

Boys’ Club

The selective and unceremonious removal of Prof Anand Kumar, Ajit Jha, Rakesh Sinha, Vishal Lathe from the National Executive and Admiral L Ramdas from Lokpal committee indicates that AAP will no more be receptive to dissent.

The party has decided to be tough with all such elements that have been sympathetic towards Yadav and Bhushan.

Lok Sabha MP from Patiala Dharamvira Gandhi and Delhi MLAs Pankaj Pushkar (Timarpur) and Devender Sehrawat (Bijwasan) may be the next targets.

The hounding of Yadav-Bhushan sympathizers will not only push disgruntled volunteers towards the duo but also fuel resignations by certain fence sitters like Medha Patkar and Christina Samy, the only female in the national executive who quit the national executive on Wednesday and Mayank Gandhi, who want the party not to be impatient in addressing dissent.

The replacement of Yogendra Yadav and Atishi Marlena with Deepak Bajpai, Ashutosh and Ashish Khaitan is a clear signal that the party has decided to contest its case with in-your-face aggression and combative approach. It has said goodbye to measured intellectual clarity Yadav and Marlena were so good at.

Kejri performance under scanner

The split will put pressure on Arvind Kejriwal Government to deliver and deliver fast on its promises. The party will need time to recover from the wounds inflicted by Yogendra Yadav, Prashant Bhushan and other desertions.

It may no more be in a position to contest Bihar and West Bengal assembly polls scheduled for later this year and next year.

“We will need at least a year to regroup and be a cohesive unit again,”

admits Anuj Kumar Singh.

There is a danger that Kejriwal may find himself enclosed by more and more yes men in future. There is also a danger that the self-righteous streak which run through the veins of AAP leaders and volunteers may not allow the party to brook any dissent in future.

The danger is real.

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