The Aam Aadmi Party suffered a body blow on Wednesday after a former party legislator released an audio tape of Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal allegedly trying to buy out Congress MLAs last year to form the government in the Capital, forcing its Maharashtra leader Anjali Damania to quit.
The resignation came as a major setback for the AAP in the state where she had become the face of party’s campaign against corruption. The activist exposed the irrigation scam in Maharashtra and contested the Lok Sabha elections against BJP leader Nitin Gadkari from Nagpur.
“I quit.. I have not come into AAP for this nonsense. I believed him. I backed Arvind for principles not horse-trading,” Damania tweeted, soon after the audio sting by former AAP legislator Rajesh Garg surfaced, alleging senior AAP leaders, including Kejriwal, were trying to poach six Congress MLAs.
The allegations appeared to have some support from rebel leaders Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan, who also released a letter to the media. The letter alleged that Kejriwal and certain sections of the party were trying to get Congress support to form the Delhi government after receiving a drubbing in the Lok Sabha elections. Efforts to get Congress support continued till last November, the letter said.
Damania’s resignation comes as a major setback for the party, especially in Maharashtra where she had become the face of party’s campaign against corruption. A housewife-turned-activist, Damania exposed the irrigation scam in Maharashtra and also filed petitions against politicians in irrigation and Maharashtra Sadan scams.
Damania’s exit came after a stormy morning as the exit of Yadav and Bhushan seemed imminent, a day after senior AAP leaders close to Kejriwal accused the rebel leaders of conspiring against the party before the Delhi polls.
The letter will be submitted to Kejriwal after he is back from Bengaluru, where he currently undergoing treatment. The speaker and deputy speaker of the assembly, besides Kejriwal’s seven-member cabinet are not part of the signature campaign.
The party has 67 MLAs in the 70-member house. HT couldn’t independently verify the number of MLAs who had signed the letter.
Yadav had hit back at the party on Tuesday, alleging lawmakers in Delhi were being forced to sign a letter against him and Bhushan. “Hope there is no more coercion of party functionaries and Delhi MLAs on the issue. Truth shall prevail,” he said.
The rookie party, however, distanced itself from the campaign. "It was purely an initiative of MLAs led by Kapil Mishra (Karawal Nagar), Praveen Kumar (Jungpura), and Sanjeev Jha (Burari)," said a party leader.
The party came to power in Delhi on the back of a crushing majority less than a month ago but 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 Bhushan who say the chief minister is dictatorial.