Terming as “unconstitutional and illegal” Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)’s National Council meeting where they were ousted from a key panel, dissidents Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan today did not rule out taking legal recourse against their removal.
Attacking Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal for his “dictatorial” tendencies and for “ruthlessly stifling” voices of dissent, Bhushan told reporters after the meeting that all options were open to them to challenge the decision.
“It is true that we can move the court, Election Commission or call another meeting of the NC. All options are open,” he said.
Providing “inside details” of the meet, which witnessed turbulent scenes, the two leaders accused Kejriwal of instigating the NC members against the dissident leaders in an “orchestrated performance” and of inaction when certain members were being heckled.
They alleged that Kejriwal during his speech threatened to resign if they were not removed from the national executive.
“He gave a dramatic speech for around one hour and it was full of allegations against us. He threatened to resign if we were not removed. He also accused Shanti Bhushan of anti-party activities without taking his name. Then 10 people including MLAs like Kapil Mishra stood up and started shouting slogans calling us traitors. The drama went on for 5-7 minutes during which he (Kejriwal) stood like a statue,” Yadav said.
Yadav said that the party convenor left soon after the speech, citing “official engagements” after making Delhi Transport Minister Gopal Rai the chairman of the meet. Within seconds Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia “moved the resolution” to remove them.
“Sisodia said 167 members have moved the resolution and voting on that began without even getting it seconded by any other person. We asked Rai to allow a debate and to make arrangements for secret vote, but he did not react,” he said.
Yadav pointed out the “irony” of a party, “that has born out of the Jan Lokpal movement”, not allowing its internal Lokpal L Ramdas inside the meeting citing possibilities of “confrontation”.
Bhushan, who was particularly aggressive during the press conference, slammed the “hooliganism” saying that he had an “inkling” that the meeting was going to be “stage-managed” going by the “activities” of the last three days.
“Every MLA was directed to bring 50 people to the meeting. They engaged in hooliganism and those who tried to stop were booted out. Is this why we made the party through out blood and sweat? This is a grave hour of crisis for the party,” the senior lawyer said.
Yadav mocked Kejriwal camp’s claim that only eight members in the NC had voted against the resolution to remove the duo saying that he could well have said “minus eight”.
“There was no identification of voting and non-voting members during the National Council. It was completely scripted. Isn’t this a telling fact that they could gather only 167 signatories to move the resolution, even if we go by their claims.
“If you had so much confidence then why didn’t you opt for secret ballot? Why did you keep the party Lokpal out of the proceedings?,” Yadav asked.
Without ruling out the possibility of floating a new party after being subject to “humiliation”, Yadav said that he would sit in a meeting with “party volunteers”.
“I said nothing of that sort. We need to recover from today’s events and sit together and think,” he said.
Giving further details of the proceedings, Yadav said that party MLA from Bijwasan Devendra Sehrawat, who was one of the eight members who voted against the resolution, protested the turn of events.
Later Sehrawat said that the sacking of the duo was against the “law of natural justice”. “You are shooting the messenger by sacking them.”
He added that there was an “unpleasant situation” and one senior member was “manhandled”. “I stood up and asked people to behave themselves… the handling could have been better.”
Incidentally, Sehrawat was one of the MLAs who did not sign a letter, drafted by a section of the legislators, seeking expulsion of party “rebels” Shanti Bhushan, Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav.
AAP MP from Patiala Dharamvira Gandhi, who recently cautioned the party leadership saying that action petty will spell doom for the party, was also present in the presser.
“The foundational principles of democracy were subverted today. I did not join the party for any individual. I am here for its ideals of internal democracy, transparency…,” Gandhi said.
Later, Yadav alleged that NC member Ramzan Chaudhry, who sat beside the duo during the press conference, was assaulted and “two bouncers came, dragged him out and started beating him”.
Replying to a reporter’s question on whether Kejriwal was a “dictator”, Bhushan said he “failed” to curtail the Delhi Chief Minister’s “dictatorial tendencies which has now taken an uglier form”.
Insisting that party ombudsman Admiral (Retd) L Ramdas, who had flown in from Maharashtra, should have been allowed to be present at the meeting, Yadav said “Admiral Ramdas’s eyes have greater value than any video recorder. He has been present at every such meeting till date.”
Asked about his and Bhushan’s relevance in the party after their ouster from the Political Affairs Committee and the National Executive, Yadav stressed that the party should not be “judged” solely by the “unfortunate turn of events”.
“It’s an hour of shame. But please do not judge the party by today’s tragedy…whenever I think of the party, I don’t think of 50 members of AAP’s Delhi unit. I think about thousands of volunteers all around the country,” Yadav said adding “sadak pe khadi hona achhi badi baat hoti hain” (it’s a good thing to be on the street).
“Today’s turn of events is shameful. It gave us a lot of pain. We are deeply saddened by happenings like these in a party like AAP. We came to establish a new decorum and code of conduct in politics but we did not live up to our words today. It’s even worse than what happens in other parties,” he added.
Apart from the party’s Patiala MP Dharamvira Gandhi, its Timarpur MLA Pankaj Pushkar and a few other NC members were also present at the press conference.