Just over a month has elapsed since the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) routed all opposition and secured an absolute majority (67 of the 70 seats) in the Delhi Legislative Assembly elections. While one might think that any party,which has been given a precious second chance at governing the national capital, would utilise the early months to consolidate its position and show quick and smart administrative changes to win the hearts of the electorate, AAP seems to be moving in a contrary direction. A full-blown war has rocked the AAP boat and the split threatens to sink it.
The Sting Operation
AAP Chief and Delhi Chief Minister, Arvind Kejriwal, was allegedly caught on audio tape hurling verbal abuses at dissenting AAP leaders Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav. According to the recording of a conversation between Kejriwal and Umesh Singh – a party volunteer in Varanasi, the party head had expressed his intention of forming a new party with the support of 67 AAP MLAs. The authenticity of the recording has not been challenged by anyone concerned, though Umesh Singh’s statement that the recording was made for reference and not as a sting seems implausible.
Indian media had a field day with the incident eliciting widespread response on Social Media sites. The unsavoury language and expletives used by Kejriwal come as a shock since he is considered to be a mild and calm person.
“They (Bhushan & Yadav) haven’t stopped at anything to defeat us in the Delhi elections… If it was any other party they would have been physically kicked out of the party…I want to walk out of AAP and form my own party”, Kejriwal is believed to have said.
A Rift in the Ranks
The incident comes at a time when Kejriwal has been facing charges of stifling the party’s internal democracy and transparency. Bhushan and Yadav have repeatedly complained that the AAP leader has moved away from the elevated ideals that are at the foundation of the party. One of the most important allegations levelled against Kejriwal by Yadav, Bhushan, and others, is that the leader is not giving state units enough power to act on their own discretion. Kejriwal’s supporters have claimed that his private conversations have been recorded over the past few months with the purpose of blackmailing the leader.
While neither Bhushan nor Yadav have raised any strong objection to the language used by Kejriwal, AAP spokesperson Ashutosh remained concerned that this may affect the image of the party rather badly. “Whatever is happening is not good. The party’s image is getting marred…We never made the inside talks public because there are always some things that aren’t done,” he said. AAP leader Kumar Vishwas also seemed unhappy about the differences that have torn the party apart. “Personal jealousy and frustration is there, but there are also some forces for the rift within the AAP”, he said and also suggested that the Bhushan-Yadav duo exit the party gracefully.
National Council Meeting
News reports on Friday suggested that Kejriwal referred both Bhushan and Yadav to the Aam Aadmi Party’s 320-member National Council – a body that has been behind the party’s formation. On Saturday, 28 March, 2015, the National Council convened and voted to oust both Bhushan and Yadav from the National Executive Committee of the party. Anand Kumar and Ajit Jha, AAP leaders and known supporters of Yadav, were also removed from the National Executive Committee. However, there have been allegations of hooliganism and malpractice at the meeting. A number of National Council members were dissuaded from attending on grounds that only MLAs and MPs were invited, said Yadav. Despite allegations that the odds were stacked against them, facts remain that Bhushan and Yadav are now no longer part of the AAP executive committee.
Is A Split in the Party Likely?
One question that is resounding across political circles now is whether AAP is headed for a grand split. Will Bhushan and Yadav leave and form a new party, now that their executive powers have been curbed? This looks unlikely just yet. Bhushan and Yadav are reported to have said “Na Chodenge, Na Todenge” (Will neither leave, nor break). But this was before today’s decision. Whatever be the political outcome of these happenings, one thing remains certain – AAP no longer enjoys the flawless image that it once did. The party needs to work hard to regain credibility and the confidence of the voters.