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'I will finish you, but I will not turn you into a martyr', Arvind Kejriwal tells Kumar Vishwas as AAP rift over RS nominations deepens

In the aftermath of Kumar Vishwas posting his over 13-minute “We the Nation, Bold and Straight-Forward” video on YouTube and tweeting about it, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal held a meeting of National Executive at his residence.

File image of Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. News18

File image of Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. News18

There, his protégé Alok Agarwal argued that Vishwas, the poet-turned-politician ought to be suspended from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) for the contents of his video targeting Kejriwal.

A leader present at the meeting told Firstpost that Agarwal seemed to have Kejriwal's blessing. But Vishwas challenged Agarwal's contention and sought a vote by all those present. In that video, posted in April, Vishwas said "If, in Delhi, you form a government on the anti-corruption plank with the promise of freedom from corruption and fall silent and try to protect your own people when they come under the scanner, you will be questioned by people."

While Kejriwal publicly gave Vishwas the thumbs up for such candid talk, a source said that privately, he was extremely upset. Agarwal is said to be extremely close to Kejriwal and happens to be the AAP's coordinator for Madhya Pradesh.

A source revealed that when Vishwas continued with his “principled” talks with party workers, Kejriwal purportedly told him: "I will finish you but I will not turn you into a martyr". Party leaders are familiar with Kejriwal’s temperament. Kejriwal, it should be noted, could be heard saying — when Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav were showing signs of leading a rebellion — in a leaked audio tape that the duo ought to be kicked onto their back and thrown out. But Kejriwal seems to have learnt from past mistakes and devised a new method to marginalise Vishwas and (for now) Ashutosh.

By trashing Vishwas and Ashutosh's — the two most vocal and articulate leaders — candidature for Rajya Sabha, Kejriwal did exactly what he promised to his colleague and longtime friend: Finished Vishwas’ political career (in a manner of speaking) and put Ashutosh in cold storage.

Kejriwal instead placed his trust in two practically unknown persons, Sushil Gupta and ND Gupta, to catapult them to Upper House of Parliament. The third person who Kejriwal intends to send to Parliament is Sanjay Singh. Going by the numbers AAP has in Delhi Assembly (66 out of 70), all three candidates will be elected unopposed.

Though their names have not been officially announced, a number of senior leaders in AAP confirmed this to Firstpost. The official announcement will be made on Wednesday evening after a meeting of party’s political affairs committee, which Kejriwal will chair after his return from vacation.

What compounds the shock value is Kejriwal’s preference for the unknowns (Sushil Gupta and ND Gupta) at the cost of Vishwas and Ashutosh. “Who is Sushil Gupta? Who is ND Gupta?" is the common refrain. Party leaders are at a loss to explain what prompted their chief to select them for the coveted parliamentary post.

Little is known of Sushil and ND Gupta. Sushil threw a New Year's party for all AAP MLAs at his residence which the Chief Minister's Office gave the go ahead.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a prominent AAP leader said Kejriwal’s choice of names for the Rajya Sabha meant two things: “Firstly, the party has sold out. It is no longer the party which emerged out of public movement for transparency, probity and anti-corruption. It is for people to see and draw their own conclusions as to how and why Sushil Gupta and ND Gupta have been chosen over dedicated seniors who were part of the organisation since the days it was a movement.  Looking at their selection, one wonders how tickets were distributed during the Punjab election.”

File image of AAP leader Kumar Vishwas. AFP

File image of AAP leader Kumar Vishwas. AFP

“Second, today a supremo culture prevails in AAP. Kejriwal never built the party the way a structured organisation is built. He calls himself a convener in a party of volunteers where everyone was equal, but he has made it one-man show. His every wish is a command for the party and his word is law. The party which was formed on ideals of democracy and claimed to offer alternative to politics as usual has been reduced to the whims and fancies of one man. It is a dictatorship."

Who are Sushil Gupta and ND Gupta?

Sushil Gupta is a Delhi-based businessman who is worth over Rs 164 crore. He was associated with Congress. He fought 2013 Delhi Assembly election on Congress ticket from Motinagar constituency.

Despite sparing no expense, he lost that race handily and faded into oblivion. He joined the AAP a month ago, but party insiders didn't read much into that. The media didn't give it much space in print either.

ND Gupta is a chartered accountant. Among the AAP brass, opinions on his professional credentials is varied. It is interesting to note that his nomination to the Rajya Sabha comes at a time when the AAP is embroiled with income tax notices over fund raising allegedly done through dubious means.

Another senior party leader said Kejriwal decided about Rajya Sabha nominations before he left for his vacation. Three party leaders — Satyendra Jain and MLAs Shiv Charan Goel and Rajesh Gupta — were tasked with meeting party MLAs individually and convincing them of Sushil and ND Gupta’s worth before Kejriwal returned and held the meeting. Though there is great deal of resentment among party leaders and workers, there is no sign of an open revolt. Yet.

Vishwas who had likened himself to “Abhimanyu” of Mahabharata is angry, but is maintaining a studied silence. His supporters are, however, venting their ire against Kejriwal. “Vishwas’ stature, his popularity within and outside of the party was intolerable to Kejriwal”, one close supporter said.

Vishwas raising the red flag on party’s tilt towards pro-Khalistan elements during Punjab elections; him taking a nationalist position on Indian Army’s surgical strike across Line of Control (LoC), a stand which challenged Kejriwal’s demand for proof; and his idea that Kejriwal and team must focus on governance rather than spending all their time and energy in finding faults with Prime Minister Narendra Modi were three tipping points against Vishwas for the AAP boss.

Various incidents over the past few months: AAP national council meeting, Foundation Day public meeting and Vishwas' supporters holding a dharna at AAP's party office in New Delhi were indicative that the trust deficit between Kejriwal and Vishwas was fast reaching the point of no return. Vishwas, through his words and actions, portrayed himself as the only one in the party holding the torch for truth and morality.

Remember, Kejriwal and Vishwas were once close. Kejriwal’s deputy Manish Sisodia and Vishwas have been friends for the past four decades. They've known each other since primary school. But, as they say in politics, there are no permanent friends or enemies.


Published Date: Jan 02, 2018 19:58 PM | Updated Date: Jan 02, 2018 21:22 PM

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