Unrest in AAP: Is the honeymoon over?

One-man show The focus on Kejriwal has unnerved his colleagues
One-man show The focus on Kejriwal has unnerved his colleagues, Photo: Tehelka Archives

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has landed in a fresh controversy with reports of a rift within the party involving senior leaders such as Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan. Hardly two weeks after forming a popular government in Delhi, reports of friction between Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and the Yadav camp have come to the fore. Things came to a head when Kejriwal offered to resign from the post of the party’s national convener as he was upset with a section of the leaders who had accused him of playing a dual role. However, the party’s national executive, which includes Bhushan and Yadav, rejected the offer.

Before the dust could settle, the leaks of internal mails made matters worse. In one letter, Bhushan accused the party of trying to cover up attempts of seeking support from the Congress just before the dissolution of the Delhi Assembly. He also questioned the growing culture of “one-man centric” politics in the party. AAP Delhi secretary Dilip Pandey accused Bhushan and Yadav of being involved in anti-party activities and urged the disciplinary committee to take action against the duo.

“The party forum is the right platform for raising questions,” says senior leader Ashutosh. “The media should not be used for such purposes. There has to be minimum discipline and nobody should be allowed to cross that line.” He rejected the theory that there are two factions in the party, saying, “The Aam Aadmi Party is united. We have full faith in Arvind’s leadership.”

The history of the rift goes back to the 2013 Delhi Assembly results. Despite AAP’s superlative performance, Kejriwal wanted to limit the part’s ambitions within the state, but Bhushan and Yadav had other plans. Yadav was keen on taking the AAP experiment national, which eventually resulted in the Lok Sabha debacle where the fledgling party lost its deposit in 414 seats of the 432 in which it contested.

Yadav, who was made in charge of Haryana during the 2014 General Election, had vested interests in the state considering the upcoming Assembly polls. However, AAP opted to stay away from the Haryana election, sending a clear message that it was focussed on Delhi.

While Yadav was part of the party’s roadshows during the Delhi poll campaign, Bhushan kept his distance. Instead, he kept on questioning the process of candidate selection. Based on his complaints, two candidates were replaced a day before the closure of nomination.

Though senior AAP leader Shanti Bhushan has appealed to the trio to stay together for the sake of AAP’s future, he has always been critical of Kejriwal’s leadership.

Kejriwal has reservations about shifting AAP’s focus away from Delhi, but many want the party to prepare for the Punjab Assembly election slated for 2017. AAP leaders have valid reasons to fancy their chances considering the anti-incumbency factor and the tussle between the ruling sad and its alliance partner, the BJP. AAP’s presence in Punjab cannot be discredited taking into account the fact that all four of its mps hail from the state.

Irrespective of what happens next, two facts have been established. There are two factions within AAP,
one that questions Kejriwal’s decisions and is not ready to submit to his supremacy, and the other that wants to elevate itself by promoting Kejriwal-centric politics. Also, this rift should be seen as a natural process of evolution of a political party. If AAP handles it well, it might emerge as a democratic unit that it has always claimed to be.

The rift in AAP reflects core concerns about the kind of form the party will take, now that it has been given such an overwhelming mandate.

The gut feeling among leaders such as Bhushan and Yadav is that the only way for AAP to stay attuned to its task is to eschew the influence of a personality cult on the one hand and develop roots among the people on the basis of principles and ideology. However, there is a section of leaders who are not so concerned about the programmatic content.

It is this delicate contradiction that explains the intensity of the internal turmoil that threatens to envelop the party. The manner in which the media is being used to score brownie points does not augur too well for the party.



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