Bhushan threatened to destroy the party says Ashutosh – All is not well with AAP

AAP Crisis - Prasanth Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav ousted from AAP PAC
AAP Crisis - Prasanth Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav ousted from AAP PAC

NEW DELHI (TIP): In another big revelation exposing fissures in Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), party leader Ashutosh on Sunday said that Prashant Bhushan once threatened to destroy the party, demanding Arvind Kejriwal’s resignations as party’s convener.

Speaking to ANI, Ashutosh said that many questions were raised on Arvind during a party meeting earlier, he got up to respond, but broke into tears instead.

“Kejriwal said – I fought against Robert Vadra, Ambani and Narendra Modi, but I can’t fight with my own people,” Ashutosh was quoted as saying by ANI.

AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal stamped his dominance over the party on March 4 when two of his critics, Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav, were removed from the Political Affairs Committee, while his own offer of resignation as national convener of AAP was unanimously turned down.

While one chapter of the bitter feud in AAP might have ended now, it may not be the end of the story. The decision to remove Bhushan and Yadav wasn’t unanimous – in fact, as many as eight voted against it while 11 voted for – indicating that there are a number of people in the PAC who share some of the concerns raised by the Bhushan-Yadav duo.

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Kejriwal himself stayed away from the meeting, possibly because of his poor health (he went to Bangalore for naturopathy treatment of his very high sugar levels), but more likely to make the point that he was above the squabbling lot – in other words, truly the first among the so-called equals.

Kejriwal also avoided engaging with the Bhushan-Yadav duo on any of the issues raised by them. Even last night the duo, or one of them, is learnt to have sought a one-on-one meeting with Kejriwal but there was no response to the overture. At the end, he apparently insisted on their removal from the PAC as a precondition for his staying as the National Convener. A fresh letter of resignation as national convener on Wednesday morning only reiterated his firm stand.

Before Wednesday’s PAC Meeting, there were serious efforts to sort to bring about a reconciliation between Kejriwal and the duo. Many options were considered, including one where the duo would offer some kind of apology. Most senior leaders found this reasonable as they also didn’t want the party’s unity to be affected in any way.

However, when the leaders reached Kejriwal, he insisted on the duo’s removal from PAC, indicating a rather quick graduation of AAP to hard-nosed power politics. Sources said that while many recognized that the issues raised by the duo were important and needed to be addressed, their presence in the PAC was untenable after the recent war of words.

At the meeting, Bhushan and Yadav suggested that the PAC be reconstituted, allowing new members to come in. This was, however, opposed by the Kejriwal loyalists, who insisted on a resolution seeking the removal of the duo. The resolution was moved by deputy CM Manish Sisodia and put to vote and the duo lost 11-8. Interestingly, some senior AAP leaders like Anand Kumar, Ajit Jha, Rakesh Sinha voted against their removal while Mumbai’s Mayank Gandhi and treasurer Krishnakant Sevada abstained.

Sources said that considering that the resolution was backed by Kejriwal it was a democratic process of open voting that was followed without fear of recrimination. Yadav was also removed as the party’s chief spokesman.

Kejriwal loyalists criticised Bhushan and Yadav at the six-hour meeting for not showing confidence in the Delhi election team. They pointed out that this lack of confidence was despite the team crafting a stunning win for AAP in the election. The duo’s continuing criticism of the team only showed that they were out of synch with the popular mood, the loyalists said. Bhushan and Yadav also raised the need for an internal ethics committee that had also been mentioned in their note.

“There is a huge trust deficit between the two groups and it will take a while for it to be bridged, if it is bridged at all. In the last few days a lot of things have been said which have left everyone with a bad taste in the mouth. There was criticism from both sides with very little middle ground,” a senior leader said.

The removal of the Bhushan-Yadav duo was announced by Kumar Vishwas who said that the duo have been “freed” of their responsibilities in the PAC and would be given new responsibilities. The new responsibilities were, however, not spelt out. He said “personal opinions and personal differences” will not come in the way of the unity of the party, which will deliver on its promises and will not betray the trust of the people.

While there is an unmistakable sense of triumphalism in the Kejriwal camp, having removed the “two thorns”, leaders and members close to the duo felt that Bhushan and Yadav’s ouster from PAC only lent credence to their charge about the party being made into a “one-person” show.

Still, Yadav and Bhushan are unlikely to leave AAP. They are likely to raise the same issues at the meeting of the AAP National Council – an all-India body of leaders, members and volunteers – that is scheduled for the month-end. The duo believe, said sources close to them, that the broader body would be the right forum to test whether their misgivings was shared by AAP members or not, or was it just a Delhi-centric opposition to their criticism.

Speaking after the meeting Bhushan said, “The NE by majority decision decided that we should not remain the PAC. I hope that the party which was created and inspired millions of people as a party wedded to the principles of transparency, accountability, inner party democracy and Swaraj will not disappoint the people on whose efforts the party was founded.”

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