The 350-member national council of the Aam Aadmi Party will meet on March 28 and it may potentially lead to the formalisation of deep factions within the two-year-old party. Somesh Jha reports
As Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal returns on Monday after undergoing treatment in Bengaluru to cure a chronic allergy, the real test awaiting him in Delhi is to bring peace to the Aam Aadmi Party.
The 350-member national council, the AAP’s highest policy-making body, will meet on March 28 and is set to witness a battle that could create deep factions within the two-year-old party.
“We will discuss the agenda of the meeting once Arvind is back from Bengaluru on Monday,” said party spokesperson Deepak Bajpai.
Sources said the party would likely hold a meeting on Tuesday to finalise issues to be discussed in the national council meeting, including how to deal with dissenting leaders Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan.
The two leaders are preparing the ground for restructuring top party bodies like the national executive and the political affairs committee.
“We will look to touch upon the crucial issues of internal democracy, autonomy to state bodies, building a mechanism to hear volunteers’ concerns and setting up of a committee to investigate serious allegations against party leaders,” a Yadav aide said.
The Kejriwal camp wants to oust the rebel leaders from the party by moving a resolution against mimicking the party’s dramatic national executive meeting held in the first week of March.
Yadav and Bhushan were expelled from the party’s political affairs committee after a resolution was passed in the national executive meeting. However, they continue to be associated with the party and are also members of the national executive.
In addition, Bhushan still heads the disciplinary committee.
Kejriwal, who had left for Bengaluru for his treatment, could not attend the national executive meeting in which a few party leaders like Mayank Gandhi were “taken aback” by the manner in which Yadav and Bhushan were removed from the political affairs committee.
The stage for their ouster was set well before the meeting when Kejriwal loyalists Ashish Khetan, Ashutosh and Dilip Pandey accused the two of conspiring against the party.
The spat became uglier after the meeting when allegations and counter-allegations were exchanged in open letters and stings surfaced aimed at exposing Kejriwal’s horse-trading strategies to form the Delhi government after the Lok Sabha elections.
The national council meeting assumes importance because it is a bigger platform where party leaders from all states and districts will participate. Senior AAP leaders admit the recent developments have dented the party’s image after its spectacular show in the Delhi Assembly elections earlier this year.
The dissenting leaders are “not very hopeful” of a dialogue with Kejriwal.
Sources said both Yadav and Bhushan feared conspiracy by Kejriwal’s loyalists to muzzle voices speaking in their support.
“The national executive resolution saw unfair voting because many state representatives received notices at the last minute and could not attend the meeting. If such unfair practices can be undertaken in a 21-member committee, then the proceedings of the national committee can easily be tampered with,” sources said.
The incident is creating a divide among the party’s Delhi legislators with MLA Kapil Mishra launching a signature campaign this week to demand Bhushan, his father Shanti Bhushan and Yadav be thrown out of the party.
Yadav said these MLAs were being forced to sign the letter against them. Two MLAs, Pankaj Pushar and Devinder Sehrawat, refused to sign the petition and Sehrawat told a national newspaper the two leaders were too precious to lose.
The dissenting leaders, in their open letter to volunteers, said the party needed to uphold the principles of transparency, democracy and swaraj.
The schism began when Kejriwal proposed taking the support of the Congress immediately after the Lok Sabha elections, party sources said.
At a political affairs committee meeting on May 18, the motion to seek support from the Congress was defeated with five party leaders, Kumar Vishwas, Pankaj Gupta, Gopal Rai, Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan, voting against and four, Kejriwal, Manish Sisodia, Ilyaz Azmi and Sanjay Singh, voting in favour.
“After the meeting, Kejriwal was adamant about asking the Congress for support and told the leaders being national convener of the party it was his decision that would matter. The same night a mail was sent by Gupta to members of the national executive for consensus on the issue,” sources said.
However, the majority of the national executive members were against Kejriwal, they added.
Kejriwal’s loyalists termed this as a mere political re-alignment and said there was nothing immoral in seeking Congress support to form the Delhi government.