A full-blown war erupted in Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) today with Arvind Kejriwal camp and dissident leaders Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav mounting a shrill attack against each other ahead of tomorrow’s crucial National Council meet that is likely to decide continuance of the duo besides some other key issues.
A day after reconciliation talks collapsed, Bhushan and Yadav accused Kejriwal of stifling internal democracy, and claimed that he even threatened to float a new regional party with all its MLAs as he “cannot work with us”.
The Kejriwal camp strongly rebutted the allegations by the dissident duo and accused the two founding members of working to ensure party’s defeat in the Delhi polls, saying they had links with AAP’s breakaway faction AVAM which had alleged that the the party got “shady” funds of Rs 2 crore last year.
The war of words came a day ahead of the party’s National Executive, which is expected to take call on continuance of the two dissident leaders. However, many party leaders feel that it will be difficult for the Kejriwal supporters to remove them given the support enjoyed by Yadav and provisions in the party constitution.
Hours after Bhushan and Yadav held a press conference in which they slammed the party chief, Kejriwal’s loyalists Sanjay Singh, Ashutosh and Ashish Khaitan too addressed the media lauching a shrill counter-attack and claimed that the reconciliation talks were on track till 4 PM yesterday.
“The talks were on track. But suddenly something happened and they said they will no longer continue the negotiations. They must tell the country what happened,” Khaitan said.
The three leaders from the Kejreiwal camp also produced a hand-written note which they claimed was written by Yadav apolosising for criticising Kejriwal.
Singh said the party had agreed on almost all demands made by the two leaders in a communication on March 17 in which Yadav and Bhushan had said they will resign if their demands were met.
The two leaders today said they will quit all “executive posts” if their five demands which included bringing the party under the ambit of the RTI Act, ordering probe by AAP’s internal Lokpal into allegations of wrong doing and giving state units more autonomy, were met.
“We had sent a note to the party placing our demands which is now being shown as our resignation letter. Whereas it was a conditional letter to resign. We had said if our five demands are met, we will resign from all party posts,” Yadav said.
The two leaders said they were repeatedly being pressured to resign during the reconciliation talks and clarified that they never raised the issue of the post of party convenorship during the talks.
“Why is it that if we raise any question, our intent is questioned?” Yadav asked, adding their fight is not for personal gains but to restore AAP’s founding principles.
Yadav also alleged that the party Constitution has been removed from AAP’s official website.
Prashant Bhushan slammed Arvind Kejriwal for allegedly trying to poach Congress MLAs to form government in Delhi last year.
“The National Executive had rejected a proposal to form government taking support of Congress. Despite that, Kejriwal sent a letter to Lt Governor asking him not to dissolve the assembly,” he said.
He identified two “fatal shortcomings” of Kejriwal that he said will potentially damage the party in the long run.
“He wants his decisions to be final. He cannot work with people who have differing voices and stand up to him. He thinks his intentions are right but means should be clean as well. That is not enough, means matter a lot,” Bhushan said.
He quoted Kejriwal as saying that he cannot be part of any institution where his writ does not run.
The duo said there was no internal democracy in the AAP and continuous efforts are being made to defame them ahead of the meeting of National Council.
Yadav said there must be an internal probe by the party Lokpal into seizure of liquor allegedly from a godown of a party candidate ahead of the Delhi elections and receiving of Rs 2 crore as donations.
They also released a letter written to party national secretary Pankaj Gupta listing issues to be discussed at tomorrow’s National Council meeting.
Bhushan also demanded that all the party meetings should be videographed to ensure transparency.
“They said they would not allow mobile phones inside the National Council meeting whereas other parties allow journalists in such meetings,” Bhushan said.
Yadav said he was offered the post of Haryana in-charge which he never asked for.
“They were saying they will offer me ‘Navin-mukt’ Haryana whereas I never asked for any such post,” he said, while adding the Kejriwal camp was referring to his detractor Navin Jaihind.
Khetan said that according to the Yadav-Bhushan camp, the five points were not a “stumbling block” and the road was clear for a roll-out plan.
“But what happened between 2 PM, when they agreed to all the decisions, and 6.15 PM? At whose behest did they change their mind at the last moment,” he asked attacking them for what he termed “holier-than-thou attitude”.
“But later it became clear that they did not care about the demands at all. They wanted a list of people selected by them to be nominated to the National Executive,” Singh said wondering why Yadav wants “secret ballot” in that case.
He went on to name Prithvi Reddy, Vijay Nair, Meera Sanyal, Atishi Marlena, Gul Panag, Dayamani Barla, Rahul Mehra, Raghav Chaddha, Maruti Bhapkar and Kiran Vissa as the members.
Responding to the duo’s demands of video recording the National Council meet, Singh accused them of hypocrisy and said, “They talk of involving volunteers in decision making. Why don’t they let the NC members decide on whether to record the conversation or not,” Singh asked.