A majority vote removed Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan from the party's top decision-making body, but it was Arvind Kejriwal who was behind the ouster, sources privy to the national executive meet said on Thursday.
Kejriwal reportedly refused to withdraw his resignation that he had earlier tendered as party chief if the two founders were not booted out from the nine-member political affairs committee (PAC). The score line was close: 11 votes to 8. But Kejriwal had his say.
An idea was floated that let the political affairs committee (PAC) be reconstituted. Yadav and Bhushan volunteered they would not contest. “That would have been a dignified and graceful way of removing them. But this offer was rejected. Some people wanted to send a message that the two paid for raising their voice,” said a source.
Manish Sisodia moved the proposal and Sanjay Singh seconded it. The 21-member National Executive voted out the two and rejected Kejriwal’s resignation as party chief.
The differences between the two and Team Kejriwal came out in the open barely a month after AAP made a sensational electoral comeback, sweeping 67 of the 70 seats in the Delhi assembly.
On February 26, AAP leaders met Kejriwal at his house in Ghaziabad when he said he didn’t want to lead the party after being burdened by the responsibilities of a chief minister. “He looked upset and didn’t mince words. He said if he had to run the party, ‘these 5-6 people’ must exit PAC,” an AAP leader said.
Sources said Kejriwal was not comfortable with the presence of Bhushan and Yadav in the PAC and wanted more freedom.
The deep factionalism in the party surfaced after letters from one camp questioned Kejriwal’s style of functioning and the absence of an internal ethics committee. Bhushan and Yadav said they wanted AAP to be more democratic, while the party accused them of trying to challenge Kejriwal’s leadership.
Kejriwal did not attend the national executive meet but he was at the Delhi secretariat till 5pm. On Tuesday he said he was "deeply hurt and pained" by the wrangling within the party.
“At a time of glory, when we made electoral history in Delhi, efforts at weakening the party has found some success,” said an NE member. “I said these are indispensable people; we should be farsighted. But the party has lost two of the best minds it had,” he said.
“The ouster of Bhushan-Yadav duo from PAC might be a victory for Kejriwal, the issues raised by them remain,” said a party leader.
Though AAP leader Kumar Vishwas, who chaired the meet, said everybody expressed commitment to work together for the party which had no differences, many didn’t seem to share his views.
AAP’s national executive had chosen Kejriwal national convener for three years in November 2012 when the party was formed. His term expires in November this year.