AAP leader Ashish Khetan has faced flak from the rebel camp for expelling Yogendra Yadav, Prashant Bhushan and two others from the party on the basis of charges he had himself levelled. In an interview with the Hindustan Times, the former journalist seeks to deflect the charge, and mounts a fresh attack on the rebels, saying they will be a liability for any outfit now.
Those expelled say you became a judge in your own cause…you made some charges against them and also investigated the same as a disciplinary panel member.
It’s not me alone. The whole organisation (AAP) is an interested party in this controversy. All decision-making bodies of AAP have taken a principal stand against Yadav, Bhushan and their friends. It’s the party versus a few. That way nobody should be in the three-member disciplinary committee. We took our time, and dealt with case on merit.
I did make some remarks. I did that as a party spokesperson. It’s also true that I was a witness to Bhushan’s efforts to ensure AAP’s defeat in the February 7 Delhi assembly elections.
Bhushan has accused you of writing a planted story in Tehelka in favour of telecom company Essar, allegedly involved in the 2G spectrum scam.
Bhushan has been filing petitions in the Supreme Court on the basis of evidence. I challenge him to show any quid pro quo. I will quit public life if he even today shows my name, my work in the corporate communication mails he is referring to. He must prove that I took favours or quit public life. The fact remains Bhushan had himself acknowledged my impeccable record as a journalist. I helped him revive his image as a PIL crusader.
Can you elaborate?
In 2010, I gave him telephone tapes of corporate lobbyist Niira Radia in the 2G scam. His stocks went up. How much money did he pay me then? In 2013, he got from a whistleblower tapes of what later became the snoopgate. He told the whistleblower that I was the most honest journalist in the country that could do justice to the story.
During the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Bhushan strongly proposed my candidature from New Delhi seat. The Essar story appeared in 2011. He didn’t speak then because I wasn’t in the wrong. He wanted to invest Rs 2 crore with me to start an independent media portal. He’s speaking now because I’m standing with Arvind (Kejriwal).
What triggered the infighting?
Their hatred for Arvind. They have been a magnet for all kinds of dissidence, enemies. Yadav wanted to replace Arvind as party chief. And Bhushans, for example, have not set perfect examples. They made an industry of PILs and built an empire out of it. They have properties worth Rs 500 crore in Noida and Himachal Pradesh. Did they make so much money through PIL? Did the poor people give them all of this? This is time for them to introspect.
Do you think the party has lost credible public faces?
If one discounts what Yadav and Bhushan have done in the last 8-10 months, if you look at their personalities in isolation, yes, they are an asset. But you can’t separate their past images and recent actions. In that sense they would be a liability to any party today.
Is the crisis over with their expulsion?
People have got fed up with these infighting stories. There are serious governance issues to be taken care of in Delhi. You cannot keep experimenting in the hope of that perfect party. You have to deliver, keep the promises that you made. Yadav and Bhushan kept saying they would reform the party. Who gave the job of bringing in reforms? They can do whatever they want to. There’s closure on our part. No reconciliation is possible now.