The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) denied on Friday that there was any rift in the organisation, trying to put up a united face amid reports of infighting following its dismal showing in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
A file photo of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Yogendra Yadav with supporters going for Lok Sabha nomination in Gurgaon. (HT photo/Parveen Kumar)
But, the 19-month-old party appeared split down the middle, with senior leader Yogendra Yadav attacking Arvind Kejriwal, even as the AAP initiated moves to bring back Shazia Ilmi, who had quit criticising the "coterie" around the former Delhi chief minister.
Senior leader Manish Sisodia's letter criticising Yadav's decision to step down from a key AAP committee rocked the party, which tried its best to downplay the controversy.
Read: Dissent grows in AAP as Sisodia slams Yadav
"We have internal democracy (in the party)," AAP leader Sanjay Singh said after the first day of a three-day national executive meeting in Delhi.
It is learnt the top leadership came under attack at the meeting attended by leaders from across the country to discuss the future course of action after the party's rout.
Party chief Arvind Kejriwal, Sisodia and Yadav, among others, were present at the meet which took place at senior AAP member Prashant Bhushan residence in Jangpura, south Delhi.
Bhushan said problems, including those involving organisational affairs, were bound to surface in a new party.
"The national executive is meeting to discuss the issues cropping up," he added.
Sisodia's letter leaked in the media on Thursday, however, has made matters worse for the AAP leadership, which is grappling with a poor performance in the elections and is faced with dissent.
In his letter, Sisodia took a dig at Yadav for quitting the party's Political Affairs Committee (PAC) and questioned his strategies for the general elections.
Yadav, a native of Haryana, had stepped down last Saturday from the PAC following a tiff with state convener Naveen Jaihind, who resigned from the party's national executive body on the same day.
Read: Yogendra Yadav quits AAP posts after tiff
Yadav, known to be a key strategist, had written to the PAC thereafter, charging the party with "falling prey to personality cult" and alleging that the decisions taken reflected the wishes of the party chief.
He also described Kejriwal as a "supremo".
In a move believed to be a retaliation against Yadav's letter, Sisodia, on his part, accused him of targeting Kejriwal and making internal matters public.
"When you wanted to become Haryana in-charge and wanted to be projected as the CM candidate despite opposition from other PAC members, Arvind backed you.
"At that time, he was democratic (for you). The state of affairs of the party in Haryana is in a shambles," Sisodia said.
Yadav, a native of Haryana, was also criticised for his incorrect survey on Haryana.
While the AAP hoped to bag about 23% of the vote share in the state - which is also home to former Delhi CM Kejriwal - it managed to get just 3% of the votes and failed to make an impression in any of the 10 constituencies.
Sisodia's letter also blamed Yadav for pushing Kejriwal to field over 400 candidates against his wish.
The AAP, despite its stellar assembly election debut in Delhi last year, managed to win just four seats - all in Punjab - in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
Yadav, who contested and lost the Gurgaon seat, refused to comment on the letter.
"I don't discuss party issues with the media and this is not the way I function," he told reporters on Friday.
Kejriwal too declined to comment on the issue, while AAP leader Singh pointed out that the letter row was not discussed in the meeting.
However, it is likely to come up for discussion on Saturday.
"The issue (of letters between Sisodia and Yadav) was not discussed. Party people can mail each other. This is a democratic process… this reflects internal democracy in the party.
"One can differ with the other," Singh, a PAC member, said, adding it would be "unfair" and "wrong" to create a hype around the matter.
After Day 1 of the meeting, there were indications that the PAC might be expanded to accommodate more members.
Singh also said the party had come to a decision that the resignations tendered by AAP leaders such as Yadav, Jaihind and Ilmi would not be accepted.
Read: Shazia Ilmi, Captain Gopinath quit Aam Aadmi Party
He indicated the party would convince Ilmi to rejoin the outfit and may assign AAP leader from Maharashtra, Anjali Damania, to persuade her.
"We would all like Shazia Ilmi to join the party again," he said.
Two of the AAP's prominent faces - Shazia Ilmi and GR Gopinath (who launched India's first low-cost carrier) - had recently quit the party in signs of disintegration.
Damania, along with party colleague Preeti Menon, resigned from the party on Thursday, but made a U-turn within hours after being assured of the formation of a transparent new state executive.
Read: Anjali Damania withdraws resignation from AAP
Another PAC member Rai said the party will discuss the future course of action after the three-day meeting ended on Sunday to make necessary changes in the organisational structure.
Meanwhile, Jaihind admitted that internal clashes were there within the party, but assured that the AAP will remain intact.
"… although people are trying to break the party and ruin Kejriwal's reputation, we will not let that happen," ANI quoted Jaihind as saying.
He also wondered as to who leaked Sisodia's letter in the media.
(With agency inputs)