When the whole of Delhi was with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), some “friends backstabbed”, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said at yesterday’s National Council meeting which removed dissident leaders Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav from the National Executive for “anti-party activities”.
As per an edited video of his speech released by AAP on Sunday, Kejriwal launched an all-out attack on Bhushan and Yadav and accused them of trying to realise their personal ambitions under the garb of raising issues of “principles”, and in the process weaken the party.
The Delhi chief minister also revealed that after the Lok Sabha debacle when he was facing criticism from all sides, he had broken down in the National Executive meeting and had even thought of quitting politics.
In an emotional speech, Kejriwal said, “When the whole of Delhi stood behind us, some friends of ours cheated us. I am saying this with a heavy heart that when the whole of Delhi was with us, some friends backstabbed us.”
“Conspiracies were hatched to ensure our defeat in the Delhi polls. AVAM (a breakway group) was formed and it was supported. It then came in the media that AVAM members were former BJP members and BJP was funding them.
“Prashant ji told many people that we think the party should lose then only can the party and Kejriwal learn a lesson. If you don’t do this then we will go before the press and destroy the party,” Kejriwal said.
Kejriwal said he had come under attack from his own people after the Lok Sabha results.
“After Lok sabha polls, there were many fights. My personality, my working style and my leadership was attacked. They would write me emails and then leak it to the media. In the first week of June, we had first National Executive meeting. There were reports that I broke down. This is a fact. There were many things I could not control. I only said one thing there. I said, I can fight with Modi, Nitin Gadkari, Salman Khursheed, Robert Vadra, even Mukesh Ambani, but I had not come here to fight Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav Yadav.
“After that I came and spoke to my family. I decided that I will quit politics and will even quit the party. We had decided. The next day Bhushan and Yadav came to my residence at 6 Am in the morning.
“After a lot of convincing, they asked me what do I want. I said, if I have to contest Delhi polls, then I have to be given the freedom to take decisions. They agreed,” Kejriwal said. Targeting Yadav, Kejriwal said stories were being planted to tarnish his image.
“Stories were planted. Senior editors of two big news channels have told me that Yogendra Yadav was planting stories against me,” he said.
Kejriwal also claimed he had reasons to believe that Yadav was even planning to hire people for his secretariat as he was soon becoming the National Convenor as the AAP chief was busy as Delhi chief minister.
Lashing out at Shanti Bhushan for giving interviews critical of Kejriwal just before the Delhi polls, the AAP chief said many donors were discouraged from donating and volunteers stopped from campaigning.
“Many volunteers wanted to come to Delhi. They were stopped. Many donors were stopped from campaigning. The limit was when our senior leader (Shanti Bhushan) of the party said that Kiran Bedi was his first choice, Ajay Maken was the second choice and Kejriwal is the third choice. I want to know then why are you in this party?” he asked.
He said the negotiations over the past few days from the side of Bhushan and Yadav were nothing but a sham under the veil of principles.
“There were attempts to weaken me and the party. When I came back from Bengaluru, I spoke to members of my team and sent them the same night to speak to Yogendra bhai. From that day to day before yesterday (Thursday), we tried our best to resolve the problem.”
“They (Yadav and Bhushan) first said they had five demands which, if met, they would quit all party posts. It was slightly shocking, normally people say either fix the party or we will quit… It was all a sham. They were showing the world that it was a fight of principles,” Kejriwal added.
Kejriwal said the mudslinging that continued for over a month benefited neither any of the groups nor the party. It was only the opposition which took advantage of it, he said.
“In the last one-and-a-half months, whatever has happened, who benefitted the most? Did Kejriwal become strong? Did the Aam Aadmi Party grow stronger? Did Prashant Bhushan grow stronger? Did Yogendra Yadav grow stronger? Did internal democracy and Swaraj come into the party? We all got maligned.
“Other parties felt with whatever happened since last one and half months…then if this is Swaraj or internal democracy then God save this Swaraj? Who benefitted from this? Modi, BJP, Congress and Ambani benefited from this,” he said. Responding to the charges of Bhushan and Yadav, who had earlier accused him of looking at winability of candidates rather than their record and character, Kejriwal said he was not greedy for any post and had even resigned as the chief minister. He also regretted that his “own people” doubted his integrity.
“Why will I compromise. 100 people can say that I am stubborn (ziddi), but neither the BJP nor the Congress can say I am dishonest. My own people doubted my honesty…We did not give tickets to so many people.
“I did not give ticket to my uncle’s son, not my relatives or friends nor did I accept money in exchange of tickets. Every candidate’s record was cross-checked. We were told that winability of candidates is important. Yes, we have come here to win not to lose,” he said.
Kejriwal had also asked the National Council to choose between “him and them” as he tendered resignation from the post of National Convenor, his membership from the PAC, National Executive and National Council. He said he was not in the party to fight with Yadav or Bhushan.
“We have given birth to this party. Have given blood and sweat to the party and even put life on stake. I am a diabetic. For 15 days I sat in fast (in April 2013). No doctor was ready to say that I would survive for next 48 hours. My mom and wife cried a lot. My ketone level had gone to 4 and 5, which is much higher than the normal level. I have come back from the jaws of death. Take this party, but do not kill it. I am not here to fight with these people.
“My fight is with corruption and communal forces. I am not here to fight with Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav. I have conceded defeat. You people have won. I am here to put an end to this war. You have to decide today. Since last one year, every NE and PAC has seen fights and arguments. You have to decide on whom do you want to choose? Either choose me or them,” Kejriwal said.
Kejriwal also said that he preferred to go to jail with just following instruction from Bhushan.
“I went to jail with just one instruction from Prashantji,” he said. The Delhi chief minister was referring to his going to jail after he refused to furnish personal bond in a defamation case last year.
Sources said it was Bhushan who had asked him not to furnish the personal bond.