The controversy surrounding the Aam Aadmi Party’s founding members Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan for challenging party chief Arvind Kejriwal’s leadership refuses to die down amid attacks from both camps. In AAP’s first detailed reaction to the crisis, Kejriwal’s confidant Ashutosh tells Hindustan Times that volunteers are demoralised and the party’s image has suffered a setback. Excerpts from an interview:
There are allegations from within the party that Kejriwal is a dictator, doesn’t like to be questioned, is not ready to listen to criticism?
I can tell you from my experience that as a colleague you can differ with Arvind violently and yet survive. And I have worked with many people. He is a democrat at heart, believes in wider consultations. There can be differences of opinion. But he listens to you. There have been several occasions when he has changed his stand. For example, we had numerous debates over candidate selection. He has given in to our views. Because of his clarity of mind and vision, people think he doesn’t listen to others. It happened to all strong leaders such as Mao, Lenin, Gandhi and Modi.
The national executive meeting sacked Yadav and Bhushan from the political affairs committee but only by three votes. The duo still got eight votes. Don’t you think this shows a clear divide in the party?
No. In fact this shows there is democracy in the party and people can differ on issues.
Do you share the view that the recent developments have demoralised volunteers?
I completely agree. Volunteers are extremely demoralised. The party’s image has suffered a setback. We must sit together and sort things out as soon as possible.
Do you think the crisis could have been avoided?
Every crisis is avoidable and should be avoided. Only if people show the requisite willingness.
Who do you pin the blame on?
Sometimes ambition becomes a fatal flaw in your personality. I won’t say more than this.
You wrote in your latest book that on June 6, 2014, after the Lok Sabha debacle, Yadav questioned the “supremo style” of functioning within the party, Kejriwal broke down and offered to quit. Questions are being raised over the timing of its release.
The soft launch of the book was on February 15, much before what has happened in the party. My purpose was not to create a controversy. In that case I would have leaked select portions from the book. What happened that day was one of the incidents in the long narrative. And I only truthfully reported it.
But the book does target certain individuals?
I must have been an astrologer to know about future developments (laughs). I planned it in August 2013 when I was managing editor at IBN 7 and wrote as things happened. I didn’t have any benefits of hindsight. As a journalist, I admit the contents would have exposed certain realities in any case. I don’t deny that.
The fact remains Arvind broke down and crumbled to the floor. Yogendra Yadav had written an accusatory letter. This is my view that Arvind felt Yogendra Yadav betrayed his trust. Arvind said he had taken on the bigwigs. He said he was not there to fight Yadav and Bhushan. He said they can run the party..