AAP in crisis: Is Kejriwal propping up Kumar Vishwas to showcase party's nationalist credentials?

Frustrated over the drubbing in the MCD election, the allegations and counter-allegations by the leaders and MLAs of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the public show of differences have come to a temporary halt, after the party’s Political Affairs Committee (PAC) meeting concluded late on Monday evening.

The two major outcomes of the PAC meeting chaired by AAP national convener and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal were firstly, the resignation of AAP MLA (Okhla) Amanatullah Khan from the committee (or was he compelled to do so?), and secondly, a stern message to party members and MLAs by Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia not to give public statements.

File image of Kumar Vishwas. AFP

File image of Kumar Vishwas. AFP

But is that all? Or is there something more to the PAC meeting? Is Kejriwal the man behind the script on the basis of which the PAC took its decisions?

Sisodia, after leaving the meeting told members of the media that there had been anger in the PAC and Kejriwal was also disturbed over the ‘bayaan baazi’ (public statements) by senior party leaders and MLAs. “Whoever has any complaint should come and meet us, meet (Kejriwal) and tell him. Don't give statements and issue videos like this outside,” said Sisodia, while referring to Kumar Vishwas who had been issuing videos and giving interviews, yet chose to stay away from the PAC meeting.

While Khan is out of the PAC, no stringent action has been taken against Vishwas despite strong allegations levelled against him by the MLA from Okhla.

Even as he left the meeting venue, Khan reiterated, “I stand by what I said about Vishwas. He is working at the behest of the BJP and the RSS.” A source close to the Okhla MLA told Firstpost, “Everyone is aware of what Vishwas said. His statements were clearly anti-AAP. Despite that, Kejriwal tried to save him by referring to him as his ‘younger brother’. We know full well that Amanatullah has been forced to resign and he is paying for speaking the truth. The top leadership has never had time to listen to its volunteers in the past three years. Our MLA has been made a scapegoat to save Vishwas for reasons best known to Kejriwal.”

Background

After the loss in the MCD election, Vishwas, a senior AAP leader gave interviews to TV channels raising questions about the party’s election strategy. He apparently told the media that he was left out of the Punjab Assembly election and MCD polls. Singing an altogether different tune from that of theparty line, Vishwas had said that blaming EVMs for the defeat was wrong. While, many party leaders and MLAs took exception to his statements, Kejriwal came as a saviour and tweeted that Kumar was his 'younger brother' and that no one could come between them.

Meanwhile, Amanatullah claimed that Vishwas had been calling MLAs to his residence and asking them to raise demands to make him the national convener. “Vishwas is trying to break the party. He told some of the MLAs that they could join BJP, which was ready to pay Rs 30 crore to each MLA,” claimed Amanatullah.

Kejriwal may try his best to shove the rift under the carpet, but differences are visible loud and clear.

Besides questioning the statements made in public by Vishwas, Amanatullah has also alleged that while former Delhi police commissioner BS Bassi had been harassing and arresting AAP MLAs, it was Vishwas who invited the latter to his birthday party in 2016 and ‘offered cake to him’.

A few unanswered questions

-If Amanatullah was asked to resign, why was no strong action taken against Vishwas for speaking against the party leadership?
-Why did Vishwas choose to stay away from the PAC meeting?
-Despite warning, why does Amanatullah continue to stand by his remark and reiterate it after resigning?
-Why did Kejriwal try and save Vishwas by referring to him as his ‘younger brother’?

Is Kejriwal, the scriptwriter and Vishwas, the actor?

According to party sources and former AAP MLAs and volunteers, given the adverse wave against AAP, saving Vishwas is a compulsion fo r Kejriwal. Booting out Vishwas, a popular face in AAP, is likely to backfire as most other well-known members of the top leadership have already been shown the door — Yogendra Yadav, Prashant Bhushan and Mayank Gandhi to name a few. Keeping Vishwas within the party fold is far less politically risky for Kejriwal, who’s known for his ‘autocratic style of functioning’.

Politically, Vishwas is a non-existent threat to the top leadership.

Moreover, Vishwas can come in handy in declaring AAP’s nationalistic credentials through his poetry, an issue that seems to be another chink in the party’s armour. Karan Singh, a former AAP volunteer and convener of Aam Aadmi Volunteer Action Manch (AAVAM), a splinter group of AAP, said, “The voters are visibly angry with Kejriwal due to his negative comments against the surgical strike, demonetisation and many other decisions taken by the Centre. Here, Kejriwal may want to use Vishwas as the party’s nationalist face, who has penned a few nationalistic poems, and win back his voters. If he expels Vishwas who has gained popularity through kavi sammelans, it might go against him especially when the party has performed so badly in the Punjab and Goa Assembly elections and MCD polls.”

“I doubt the PAC members have done any introspection about their performances. Instead, this meeting is a farce and a part of the larger script written by Kejriwal, in which Vishwas is a protagonist to uphold AAP’s nationalistic credentials,” he added.

Despite Vishwas’ popularity as a poet, a section within AAP feels that his adverse comments would harm the party. Even his utility has been questioned behind the closed doors as he hardly has any grassroots connect. Although an idea was mooted ahead of the PAC meeting about whether he could be made AAP’s national convener, it has apparently fallen flat. “Vishwas doesn’t have any connect with volunteers at the grassroots level. Moreover, his interviews to the media after the MCD election have led to crisis. Despite this, the top leadership probably wants to keep him in good humour to avoid any further rifts within the party. It might be possible that the party leadership wants to use his public image to win back the receding voter confidence and reposition itself as a party that too has a nationalistic agenda,” an AAP veteran said on condition of anonymity.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Are AAP’s nationalistic credentials under fire?

An important reason that has emerged for the party’s defeat in election after election is its apparent anti-national stand. While making bold remarks against issues such as surgical strike against terrorists across the LoC, Kejriwal perhaps didn’t realise that the electorate was viewing it as an incessant, pointless rant.

The issue has already been discussed in various fora and even former AAP leaders and Delhi voters agree that Kejriwal’s constant rants against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his questioning of surgical strike and similar decisions have made the party unpopular.
Nearly a week before the MCD election, one of the office bearers of Delhi’s Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs) — a major chunk of 20 lakh voters — had cautioned the AAP leadership to stay away from making ‘anti-nationalistic comments’.

“The AAP government has done some good work for the Delhi public. But everything has been getting a bad name due to the constant rants against anything related to the Centre like your comments against surgical strikes, border issues etc. This is not going down well with the voters. The AAP leadership should focus itself on Delhi’s development, rather than getting involved into making such comments,” Dr Faheem Baig, president, Seelampur RWA had told Sisodia in a RWA meeting at the Constitutional Club in Delhi.

Sharing a similar view, former AAP leader, Maninder Singh Dhir, who was Delhi Assembly Speaker during AAP’s 49-day government, said, “After quitting the government, AAP got a historical victory in 2015 election by pleading people to forgive them for the mistake. But, thereafter, the entire leadership led by Kejriwal became so arrogant and drunk in power that instead of focussing on Delhi’s welfare, it went out to contest election after election like Alexander conquering the world. For every fault and failure of AAP's own, Kejriwal blamed Modi, even to the extent of questioning decisions taken by the Centre on national interest like the surgical strikes by our army. This has caused immense negativity all around and hasn’t gone down well with the voters. The results of the Punjab, Goa, Rajouri Garden bypoll and the latest MCD election proved it.”

“Kejriwal called himself an 'anarchist' after becoming chief minister. In a democracy, no one likes an anarchist to govern a state, because it’s the Maoists who’re anarchists,” Dhir added.


Updated Date: May 02, 2017 14:20 PM

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