Serious differences appeared to have cropped up in Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), including over Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s role in the party, with the internal Lokpal pointing to two camps emerging within top leadership and asking the party to consider ‘one-man, one-post’ arrangement.
Barely weeks after AAP convenor and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal stormed to power, the letter by Admiral Ramdas, a former Navy chief and party’s internal Lokpal, sent to the Political Advisory Committee before the national executive meeting last week, recommended that any criticism on inner-party democracy needed to be dealt with by an independent group which carries out an internal audit.
Ramdas emphasised on more clarity on whether Kejriwal can handle dual posts of Delhi chief minister and National Convenor. He also noted there was “abject breakdown in communication and mutual trust” in top leadership which was “unacceptable”.
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He also said “today we are a national party and we can no longer keep our vision limited to Delhi or some region within the capital,” a stand contrary to Kejriwal who had stated that the party will focus on Delhi and was apparently unhappy over leaders, including Yogendra Yadav, suggesting otherwise.
AAP sources have said that Arvind Kejriwal had tendered his resignation as the party’s national convenor during the national executive meet earlier this week, but the move was vehemently opposed by members.
The letter also said that AAP must make efforts to become a genuinely gender-sensitive party as neither its PAC nor the Delhi government led by it has any woman members.
“During the past six to eight months, there has been an abject breakdown in communications and mutual trust amongst the topmost leadership of the party. This has in my view led to the growth of two camps within the party and loose talk about conspiracies.
“This is unacceptable and shows that we are no different from any of the parties whom we criticise so vocally. I sincerely urge the entire leadership of the party… to stop listening to rumours and to discourage colleagues… who continually bring negative feedback about each other,” Ramdas said in the letter.
He also asked whether there was any requirement for a co-convenor that Kejriwal’s responsibilities have increased.
“To discuss and arrive at creative and visionary decisions on redefining the role of the National Convenor of AAP. Can the Chief Minister of a state and the National Convenor if he/she be the same person be in a position to discharge both the the duties efficiently? Do we need co-convenors? What kind of profile are we looking for?
“The DelhiÂ results have also impacted at the national level and expectations have been aroused amongst all Aam Aadmi supporters outside the capital and across India.
“We need to recognise this and programme ourselves accordingly,” Ramdas said.
Sources said that two senior AAP leaders and members of its all-powerful Political Affairs Committee, Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan, were unhappy with candidate selection.
They also said that the two were not in favour of the party’s decision not to contest Haryana elections last year.
In his letter, Ramdas said, “There has been criticism within the party regarding decision-making and inner-party democracy.
“This needs to be further analysed by an independent group who should carry out an internal audit and make suitable recommendations in keeping with the constitution and the high standards of probity and ethics that we have charted for ourselves,” the letter added.
In the past, leaders like Shazia Ilmi have quit the party citing lack of inner party democracy.
The letter says there was a crisis situation just ahead of Delhi elections over issues raised by Bhushan who, it claims, also threatened to resign if his concerns were not addressed.
“In end December, 2014, there was a crisis situation brought about by Bhushan’s unhappiness with candidate selection and the decision-making processes. If not addressed, he said he would be forced to resign from the party and go public.
“To contain this, a special meeting was called in Delhi on Jan. 3-4, 2015, where a decision was taken to refer the issue to the AAP Lokpal, assisted by a specially selected team,” the letter said.
The sources said that Kejriwal was upset after a section of party leaders raised the issue of him playing the dual role of Delhi Chief Minister and the party’s convener. Kejriwal is believed to have demanded more freedom to run the party.
Ramdas also said that AAP must make efforts to genuinely become a gender-sensitive party.
“We need to make much efforts in the direction of becoming a genuinely gender-sensitive party which will do far more than pay lip service to women’s empowerment and ensure that we work to improve women’s visibility and participation at all levels.
“I personally find it difficult to defend AAP against accusations of being mainly a ‘boys’ club’, especially when we were not able to have even one woman in our team of ministers! Women’s empowerment and justice has to go deeper and farther than mere security alone,” Ramdas said.
He also criticised the party for “neglecting” and taking its volunteers for granted.
After the Lok Sabha debacle, a splinter group called AAP Volunteers’ Vichar Manch (AVAM) was formed, raising issues related to the party. The group was later expelled.
“Volunteers are our lifeline. We neglected and took for granted our volunteers and their commitment, especially after the general elections in 2014.
“This may well have been one of the contributory factors for the emergence of AVAM. We need to learn the right lessons from this experience and put in place robust mechanisms and people to handle this resource,” Ramdas said.