The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) suffered a body blow on Wednesday after the release of an audio tape that purportedly has Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal telling a former party MLA last year to poach six Congress legislators to form the government in the Capital.
The revelation that came barely a month after the AAP won a historic mandate in Delhi is a massive setback for Kejriwal and his two-year-old party, which grew out of an anti-corruption campaign and struck a chord with millions of people over its clean image.
Former AAP MLA Rajesh Garg said the telephone conversation between him and Kejriwal had been recorded in November, just before the Delhi assembly was dissolved. In the tape, the Delhi chief minister can be purportedly heard saying they had tried to poach the Congress legislators many times but hadn’t succeeded, the latest in a string of embarrassments for the factionalism-ridden party."We are ready but these people (Congress MLAs) are not agreeing. Manish (Sisodia) has been in touch with them. We have tried many times. We shouldn’t say publically that we are seeking support. That will make us look desperate … Unless they agree, we shouldn’t say anything … Now you should works towards separating these six from the party. These six should leave and form their own party and should give us support from outside," Kejriwal was alleged to have said in the telephonic conversation.
Minutes after the sensational sting hit the airwaves, the party’s senior Maharashtra leader Anjali Damania quit over the controversy . “I quit ... I have not come into AAP for this nonsense. I believed him... I backed Arvind for principles not horse-trading,” she tweeted, demanding a probe into the allegations within 48 hours.
Her 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.
The allegations also appeared to have some support from rebel leaders Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan, who released a letter to the media saying Kejriwal and some sections of the party were trying to get Congress support after receiving a drubbing in the Lok Sabha elections. Efforts to get Congress backing continued until last November, the letter said. Similar allegations had been levelled by Bhushan two weeks ago.
Yadav also demanded the issue be brought to the party ombudsman (lokpal) Admiral Ramdas.
AAP leader Kumar Vishwas hit back at Garg, alleging he was trying to blackmail him for a party ticket.
“Mr failed conspirator Rajesh Garg Ji, I hd forwarded the audio clip to the party on the same day you tried to blackmail me with the same. That was when you tried to exchange a Vidhan Sabha ticket with this audio… remember? Denied a ticket, u r free to do whatever u wish,” Vishwas tweeted.
This is not the first time recorded telephonic conversations have rocked the party. Last week, a recorded conversation between CM aide Bibhav and a journalist triggered charges of planting anti-Kejriwal stories in the media against Yadav, setting in motion the current turmoil within the party.
A series of leaked letters last month revealed the presence of two camps – one supporting Kejriwal and the other, comprising Yadav, Bhushan and a few others, who accuse the Delhi CM of being dictatorial.