Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) rebels Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan stopped short of announcing the creation of a new political outfit even as they said they were starting a new “movement” while slamming the lack of scope for dialogue within the Arvind Kejriwal-led party.
Significantly, Yadav said they would “not” quit AAP as he emphasised that it does not belong to a “single” person.
On the day of a meet organised by the AAP dissidents, Bhushan, who was particularly aggressive, sought to take on the party’s top leadership for “threatening” to expel those attending the same, saying it meant that “there is no place for dialogue in the party”.
Speaking at the ‘Swaraj Samwad’ convention in Gurgaon, Bhushan said, “Those who raised questions were expelled from top party posts. Today, I heard that we may be expelled for organising this samwad. The message from the top is that if you raise voice against the party, you will be expelled.”
As to the crisis that has rocked AAP, Bhushan said that going to the court or Election Commission against those who have “captured” the party would be a “long and messy” affair.
Yadav for his part said that the attendance at the meet was indicative of the fact that the problems which have beset AAP are not limited to only one or two people.
“Principled workers of the party do not agree on happenings in the AAP… the biggest challenge is to prevent hope from being broken,” he said.
Both Bhushan and Yadav appeared to steer clear of the question of the launch of a new party even as they stressed on the importance of a “new start”.
“We need time to prepare, today is not the day for a new party. We will keep working for the people. We will not leave this party, it does not belong to a single person,” Yadav said.
Echoing those thoughts, Bhushan said that “if today we announce the launch of a party” it would run into the “same situations” that AAP is now facing.
“We will have to start a new dialogue on issues like challenges being faced by the farmers… development models in the country through swaraj and find solutions and launch a movement.
“The day we manage to show that our movement has stayed true to its ideals, we can make it a political party,” the senior lawyer said.
Earlier, the rebels’ meet began in the presence of volunteers from across the country, who termed it a day for a “new beginning” even as AAP warned of action against those attending the event.
Triggering speculation that they wanted to float a new party, Yadav and Bhushan had announced their decision to hold the ‘Swaraj Samwad’ meet to discuss the future course of action after their expulsion from AAP’s top echelons.
Later, AAP leader Ashutosh hinted that a crackdown on the rebel members was imminent as he said that the party will “soon” sit down to discuss the developments in light of the meet and take an “appropriate” decision.
“The entire exercise that happened today and the speeches of different people present on the dais, it’s very clear that they have already decided that they will break the party,” he said.
Before the session began at around 10 A.M. today, Yadav told reporters, “I am sure we would witness something new here. It’s a day for a new beginning. AAP Constitution gives an ordinary member of the party the freedom of expression which no other party gives and, if the workers are using that freedom, I am sure the party would respect it. I am not sure if the party has changed its own constitution.”
Among the key leaders who were seen on the stage during the convention were the four expelled members of AAP’s National Executive — Yadav, Bhushan, Anand Kumar and Ajit Jha — and the incumbent and former Timarpur MLAs, Pankaj Pushkar and Harish Khanna.
“Our party is new. Different people have different opinions on discipline. I believe that today’s meeting is in line with the ideals of our party,” Pushkar said.
One hour into the discussions, an audio message of Admiral L Ramdas, who was recently removed from the post of AAP’s internal Lokpal, was played at the meet.
In his message, Ramdas said a ‘Samwad’ cannot be seen as being an “anti-party activity” and that people must be allowed to speak up in a democracy.
“We have all failed to live up to those promises (founding principles) and allowed ourselves to fall prey to undemocratic behaviour, which needs no elaboration,” he said.
“I do not think the concept of Swaraj ever envisaged the kind of actions, abuse and strong-arm tactics which many have witnessed in the recent events connected with our National Executive and National Council meetings,” he said, while apologising for not being able to attend the meet.
Earlier, in a veiled threat, senior party leader Sanjay Singh had said that AAP’s all-powerful Political Affairs Committee and its National Executive would decide as to the steps regarding any action to be taken after the conclusion of the Swaraj Samwad meet.