Aam Aadmi Party’s National Council meet wasn’t the slugfest between founder-member Kumar Vishwas and the leadership that many in the party thought it would be. Both the camps held back, hoping perhaps to fight back another time. The council — where bitter differences had earlier led to the ouster of founders Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav — witnessed no such heated incident this time. But some AAP members said this was the lull before the calm and were waiting to see who would strike first. After the meeting, Vishwas fired the first shot, saying that he was not allowed to speak at the council. For the first time since AAP’s inception in 2012, his name was not on the list of speakers at the NC meeting, but was asked to speak as a state in-charge, he said.
“My name was not on the list of speakers and I was not allowed to address the volunteers. When state in-charges were asked to speak, even I was asked to do so as the in-charge of Rajasthan,” he said. “To this, I said, ‘I don’t have anything to say right now’,” Vishwas told PTI when asked what transpired in the closed-door meeting here of the party. The party, however, denied that he was not allowed to address the gathering. “He was asked to speak on party preparations in Rajasthan. He did speak, not once but twice,” said Delhi unit’s chief spokesperson Saurabh Bhardwaj. Vishwas disputed the party’s claim, and demanded the video recording of the event be made public. “I thought only the BJP and the Congress are scared when I speak. But now there are some more people who are also scared that I will open my mouth,” Vishwas said.
The poet-politician, one of the founder-members of AAP, wields considerable influence over party volunteers. Vishwas has been at odds with the top brass ever since he questioned the leadership over a string of defeats, especially after its poor faring in Punjab and Goa, the Rajouri Garden by-poll and the drubbing in the civic body election in Delhi. AAP’s Okhla MLA Amanatullah Khan, considered close to Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, had then accused Vishwas of being an “agent of the RSS” and trying to engineer a split in the party. Vishwas had taken offence to the remark and sought action against Khan, who was suspended from the party but was never out of the good books of the leadership. Even after his suspension, Khan was accommodated in the crucial panels of the Delhi Legislative Assembly and Kejriwal attended an iftar party organised by him. On Monday, the party revoked Khan’s suspension, which further irked Vishwas. Vishwas had lashed out at the decision, suggesting that the party was trying to provoke him into reacting so that he could be thrown out in the guise of disciplinary action. “But I will not let that happen. Amanatullah is merely a mask. Such masks are used to sideline people politically, which has been done before,” Vishwas had said.