While the Aam Aadmi Party government in Delhi lurches from one controversy to another - the latest being a sex scandal involving sacked minister Sandeep Kumar -- the open rebellion of another legislator against the party’s leadership has only added to its headache.
Devinder Sehrawat, MLA from Bijwasan in south Delhi, has become the third AAP legislator to rebel against the party, but the leadership has so far refrained from showing them the door. Sehrawat’s letter to Kejriwal on Sunday, alleging that AAP leaders of the Punjab unit were seeking sex in return for tickets ahead of assembly polls in the state, has riled the party. Senior leader and in-charge of Punjab, Sanjay Singh, has threatened Sehrawat with a defamation suit.
Matia Mahal legislator Asim Ahmed Khan, who was dropped by chief minister Arvind Kejriwal from the cabinet last October over charges of corruption, and Timarpur MLA Pankaj Pushkar continue to be in the party despite raising questions over the AAP government and its leadership.
While Pushkar turned a rebel when the AAP decided to expel senior leaders Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan last year, Khan has made direct allegations recently against Kejriwal and a few other leaders close to the CM of ‘conspiring to get him killed’. For his part, Pushkar has seen on several occasions sharing platforms with Yadav and Bhushan, who recently launched Swaraj Abhiyan---a socio-political group.
Sehrawat’s latest letter to Kejriwal only reinforces his divergent views from that of the party’s. His dissent was on display earlier also when he had called a press conference criticising the decision to remove Bhushan and Yadav from the party.
Sehrawat , Khan and Pushkar, however, continue to be in the party. This despite AAP’s brute majority in the Delhi assembly where it has 67 of the 70 seats.
AAP leaders say the decision not to expel these legislators is ‘deliberate’. “We don’t want to provide them an opportunity to go and join the Opposition forces. They won on AAP symbol and if they don’t find themselves on the same page as the party, they should resign and get themselves re-elected,” said a senior party leader, adding that these legislators anyway do not play any role in the party and they are not invited to meetings.
Expulsion of an elected representative from the parent party allows the individual to function as an ‘independent’, both in and outside the House, as the anti-defection law would not apply on them. However, even a mere suspension from primary membership would keep them under the ambit of the party’s whip.
AAP’s strategy was reflected in the assembly last year when the government passed key legislative bills like Jan Lokpal.
While critics like Yogendra Yadav and his group had accused AAP government of ‘diluting’ the Jan Lokpal bill, Pushkar too raised the issue in the House when it was taken up for discussion.
Pushkar also moved an amendment motion. However, he had to withdraw it later as the treasury bench issued a whip. Going ahead with the motion would have cost the legislator his membership.