Murder of democracy, Stalinist purge: AAP controversy is war of words

  • Pratyush Ranjan, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Apr 01, 2015 12:49 IST

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has hogged the limelight for all the wrong reasons since it came to power in Delhi on February 10 this year.

The party which only a few weeks ago was basking in an unprecedented 'super' majority in the Delhi assembly, now finds that the opposition is not the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) but within its own ranks.

Over the last few weeks, sharp differences began to emerge between party chief Arvind Kejriwal and two top leaders - Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan - who had been his allies since the AAP's inception. More than anything, the statements made by its own leaders has caused more damage to the party.

Here are 10 controversial statements that have come out during the rookie party's very public and acrimonious spats:

1. I would neither split nor quit the party: Yogendra Yadav

Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan were ousted from the nine-member political affairs committee (PAC) on March 4.

Yadav after his expulsion (along with Prashant Bhushan) from the top decision making body said, "I wish to say clearly there was no bargaining in the meeting (of the national executive)."

"The party has taken a decision, we should not discuss (its) proceedings," he added and reiterated he would "neither split nor quit" the AAP.

2. I am extremely sorry that I am breaking the diktat of not speaking to anyone outside on what transpired at the national executive meeting: Mayank Gandhi

Mayank Gandhi , AAP leader from Maharashtra, made public what happened at the national executive meet triggering anger among party volunteers over the ugly leadership tussle.

Gandhi said in his blog, "I was told that disciplinary action would be taken against me if I revealed anything. So be it -- my first allegiance is to the higher truth."

He said the meeting broke for some time after which Manish Sisodia proposed a resolution that Yadav and Bhushan be removed from the PAC. This was seconded by Sanjay Singh, another Kejriwal loyalist.

Gandhi added that he abstained from voting along with some others but the majority voted to oust Bhushan and Yadav.

3. What you should do is break the Congress and get 6 MLAs to float their own party. They can support AAP from the outside: Sting tape quotes Kejriwal

A former AAP MLA on March 11 released an audio tape in which Kejriwal is allegedly heard trying to engineer defection in the Congress to form a government in 2014 in Delhi during President's Rule. The AAP dismissed the audio saying it was an attempt to defame the party.

In the tape, the authenticity of which could not be ascertained, Kejriwal is allegedly heard telling former legislator Rajesh Garg to split the Congress as it was not ready to support the AAP again to form the government in Delhi.

4. I quit. I have not come into AAP for this nonsense: Anjali Damania

Minutes after the sensational sting hit the airwaves, AAP's senior Maharashtra leader Anjali Damania quit over the controversy.

"Enough of the nonsense," wrote Damania on Twitter.

Demanding a probe into the allegations, Damania tweeted, "I quit. I have not come into AAP for this nonsense."

In a reference to Kejriwal, whom she considered her mentor and idol, Damania said: "I believed him. I backed Arvind for principles not horse-trading."

5. Why is it that if we raise any question, our intent is questioned: Yogendra Yadav

Setting the stage ahead of party's national executive meeting for March 28, Yadav and Bhushan lashed out at Kejriwal accusing him of stifling internal party democracy.

Holding a press conference in the national capital, Yadav said, "Why is it that if we raise any question, our intent is questioned?"

He added that their attempts to raise issues within the party was being seen and projected as ways to remove Kejriwal from the national convenor's post.

6. You don't know how they (Yadav and Bhushan) were working against the party's interests during the elections... I am not here to be part of any brawl. I am contemplating starting a new party... will leave AAP with 67 MLAs. Best wishes to you to work with Yadav and Bhushan: Kejriwal

In another secretly taped conversation that emerged on March 27, Kejriwal is allegedly heard abusing Yadav and Bhushan.

Kejriwal also purportedly threatens the dissident duo that he would leave the AAP with all 67 newly elected Delhi MLAs, in the wake of an ugly power struggle.

"Any other party would have thrown them out," Kejriwal can be heard telling Varanasi AAP leader Umesh Singh, in a fresh controversy over yet another sting audio.

"You don't know how they (Yadav and Bhushan) were working against the party's interests during the elections... I am not here to be part of any brawl. I am contemplating starting a new party... will leave AAP with 67 MLAs. Best wishes to you to work with Yadav and Bhushan," Kejriwal allegedly told Singh.

7. It was murder of democracy: Yogendra Yadav

Yadav and Bhushan claimed many of their supporters were not allowed to vote in the national council meeting while many non-council members were let in. They also said people who disagreed with Kejriwal were beaten up and thrown out, a charge denied by Sanjay Singh from the rival camp.

"Democracy was murdered and Kejriwal looked away," said Yadav of the decision taken at a meeting of the AAP's 392-member national council.

The rebel camp claimed the proceedings were rigged, rules flouted and "bouncers" brought in to keep away those who disagreed with the Delhi chief minister.

8. Take the party, but don't kill it like this: Arvind Kejriwal

In the video posted on YouTube and tweeted by the AAP's official Twitter handle on March 29, Kejriwal can be heard saying: "There were attempts to weaken me, weaken the party. When I came back from Bengaluru, I spoke to members of my team and sent them the same night to speak to Yogendra bhai. From that day to day before yesterday (Thursday), we tried our best the problem would get resolved."

"Take the party, but don't kill it like this… In the past one year, there have been fights in all the national executive meets, every PAC meet saw shouting and screaming. Now, you have to decide whether you are with me or them (Yadav and Bhushan)," Kejriwal said in the video that compiled clips from his speech.

Accusing Bhushan and Yadav of playing the party false, Kejriwal is heard in the video saying, "I say this with sadness that at a time when the public supported us, our own friends stabbed us in the back."

9. Deeply hurt and giving a serious thought to quit the party: Maruti Bhapkar

Indicating that the AAP's internal crisis is far from over, many Maharashtra leaders are said to be "extremely upset" by the series of stings and controversies that have cast a shadow on the party's founding principles and reconsidering their continuation in the party.

Many leaders from Maharashtra feel that the "Dilli Gang" of AAP leaders "would cast more interference in our unit" after they removed Yadav and Bhushan from key posts at the March 28 National Council meet.

Expressing "disgust" over the party's line of action, senior Maharashtra leader Maruti Bhapkar on Monday threatened to quit.

"Whatever happened in NC meeting was nothing short of murder of democracy. I am deeply hurt and giving a serious thought to quit the party. We will decide our future course of action tomorrow when our state committee meeting takes place," Bhapkar said before leaving Delhi on March 30.

10. Recent events in AAP so far are farce being played out in the true spirit of Stalinist purges: Yogendra Yadav

Yadav on March 31 said he was anticipating his and Bhushan's expulsion from the party soon, calling the events so far a "farce being played out in the true spirit of Stalinist purges".

The duo has already been expelled from AAP's parliamentary affairs committee (PAC) and the national executive (NE) as a result of the ongoing wrangling in the party.

In an interview to PTI, Yadav said the AAP leadership would not stop before throwing him and Bhushan out of the party and both of them were ready for it. He said he will not resign on his own.

"Going by what we have witnessed in the last one month, that will be the most natural consequence. I thought initially that side-lining us was enough for them."

How it all began

The AAP has been embroiled in an internecine war in recent days, with the party sacking senior leaders Bhushan and Yadav from the political affairs committee, its highest decision-making body. They were also ousted from the AAP's national executive.

It has been struggling to paper over the cracks after a series of leaked letters revealed two camps -- one supporting Kejriwal and the other comprising veterans like Yadav and Prashant who say the chief minister is dictatorial. They questioned what they described as "a one-person centric" campaign in Delhi, a veiled dig at Kejriwal.

(With agency inputs)

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