AAP in turmoil: Kejriwal may have placated Kumar Vishwas but in-house hostilities will continue

The Aam Aadmi Party, sources close to its affairs would say, is a snake pit. For a party with a limited number of leaders to go around with, it has just too much distrust and too much machination going within. There are several factions and factions within faction, each busy undercutting the other. And the sources would say there is an elaborate in-house espionage system at work, keeping tab of the movement of every leader. There is an almost formalised dirty tricks department too, which uses social media to nail presumed rivals of the leadership or people close to it.

One cannot vouch for the veracity of this. But the recent developments suggest a lot of bad blood has been flowing within the party ever since it won the assembly elections in 2015. Former AAP leader and now a member of the BJP, Shazia Ilmi, had put it rather candidly after moving out of the party two years ago. Speaking to Firstpost, she had said: “Telling lies and spreading canards against own party colleagues, whom they (the leadership) want to get rid of is nothing new in AAP and this practice is still continuing even after forming the government in Delhi.” She said there was a dirty tricks department dedicated to fixing uncomfortable people.

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. AFP

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. AFP

The latest internal bout involving senior leaders Kumar Vishwas and Amanatullah Khan is another example of all that is wrong with the party. Given the reality that the party is in a self-destruct mode, it is only of academic interest whether Khan is booted out of its Political Affairs Committee or Vishwas is made the national convenor. The party, going by the latest news, has reached some kind of a compromise, placating Vishwas. But, rest assured, this is only a temporary break from internal strife for the party.

Even after this episode, there could be another waiting. There could be others planning to switch to the BJP or cooking up in-house trouble. The irony is not a single leader from AAP barring Arvind Kejriwal carries any political heft. It’s somewhat like the Narendra Modi brand value without which not many lawmakers would retain their deposits in elections.

It’s intriguing that a young party with so few members would go that way so soon. But it’s not difficult to fathom the current state of the party. Ideology that serves as the cement binding party members together is no more a factor for the AAP. The days of idealism and taking the masses along are long gone. It is self-interest and survival instinct that are holding the party together. Distrust comes into play here. Senior members have to be on their toes to protect their turf. Whenever there’s a perception of threat, trouble erupts.

There is reason why senior leaders would be virtually in a race to get close to Kejriwal. Three Rajya Sabha seats from Delhi which open for occupation next year is the most important. With its brute majority in the House, the AAP is certain to have a cakewalk. So aspirants have to be in the good books of the leader, more importantly they have to keep potential challengers out. It would still be manageable if the leadership had a clear position on the matter, from the perspective of principles at least. That does not appear to be the case.

Perhaps the source of the trouble is Kejriwal himself. An insecure leader less than confident in his own abilities to command respect or simply command resorts to dividing followers and keeping them in a perennial state of conflict to feel secure himself. The developments in the party so far indicate that Kejriwal allows troubling situation involving leaders fester. He is perceived to be close to one group, the members of which are bent upon seeing important leaders of the rival faction out. He intervenes when things threaten to go out of control. The Kumar Vishwas episode is a case in point. Sources say it is the result of friction between the Manish Sisodia and Sanjay Singh factions.

So despite the party playing down the intra-party troubles today, don’t expect the problems in AAP to go away. The other side could already be plotting its next move.

Updated Date: May 03, 2017 15:43 PM

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