While the Aam Aadmi Party has shrugged off talks of a rift despite recent reports, letters from its internal Lokpal, founder member Prashant Bhushan and its Delhi secretary Dilip Pandey are clear signs of an escalating internal row which is polarising the party.
Party spokesman Ashutosh also added fuel to the fire in a series of tweets, in which he confirmed a 'clash' within the party and also made a veiled attack on Prasant Bhushan:
The decisive churning in AAP. It's clash of ideas between ultra left who demand referendum in Kashmir and pragmatic politics of welfarism.
— ashutosh (@ashutosh83B) March 2, 2015
Churning in AAP is not a clash of personalities but of ideas. This will make way for future politics of AAP. This is my personal view.
— ashutosh (@ashutosh83B) March 2, 2015
Meanwhile, the latest in the battle of the letters is the leaked missive by the Delhi secretary of the party Dilip Pandey, accessed by NDTV, in which he accuses Yogendra Yadav, Prashant Bhushan and his father Shanti Bhushan of attempting to remove Arvind Kejriwal as the party's national convenor, and replace him with Yadav.
He charges the trio of engineering the formation of AVAM, the group that accused AAP of getting undeclared funds from others, and claims that the Bhushans not only funded it but also encouraged it.
Pandey also accuses Yadav of giving the data for what he said was a 'factually incorrect' Hindu article published in August that criticised Kejriwal. He further claims that all three undermining candidate selection for the Delhi polls with Prashant Bhushan even threatening to hold a press conference to attack the party.
"Bhushan refused to campaign for the party and also planted several anti-party stories at a time when the party was going through its most severe crisis," Pandey said in the letter in which he has sought action against them.
This letter comes on the heels of Prashant Bhushan's letter in which he wrote:
"...one person-centric campaign, which was run during Delhi elections, is making our party look more and more like other conventional parties that are also one- person centric. The only difference being that we still claim that we are wedded to the principles of 'swaraj' while they don't. Running one person-centric campaign may be effective, but does that justify sacrificing our principles? We will need to make a conscious course correction if we have to get away from a supremo controlled party,"
Bhushan pointed out that the National Executive had decided to allow party units in other states to contest polls but it had been overruled by Kejriwal, a move that, he claimed, made a mockery of the principle of swaraj and democracy.
"...decisions are being made in an arbitrary manner by a few people who are not authorised by the National Executive to take such decisions. There are some volunteers who are paid by the party, but a vast majority of them are not... Even these decisions need to be taken in a systematic and democratic manner," Bhushan said.
Bhushan also slammed the party over its 'lack of transparency', the one virtue AAP has repeatedly tomtommed as what separates it from other typical political parties.
The party's internal Lokpal has already pointed, rather belatedly, that there has been "an abject breakdown in communications and mutual trust amongst the topmost leadership of the party" which has led to the growth of two camps within the party and 'loose talk about conspiracies'.
"This is unacceptable and shows that we are no different from any of the parties whom we criticise so vocally. I sincerely urge the entire leadership of the party... to stop listening to rumours and to discourage colleagues... who continually bring negative feedback about each other," Admiral Ramdas, the party's internal Lokpal, said in the letter.
In his letter, Ramdas said, "There has been criticism within the party regarding decision-making and inner-party democracy.This needs to be further analysed by an independent group who should carry out an internal audit and make suitable recommendations in keeping with the constitution and the high standards of probity and ethics that we have charted for ourselves."
He also argued that the party may have taken its volunteers for granted, which resulted in the formation of AVAM.
Despite the public mudslinging, however, Yogendra Yadav has dismissed reports of a rift as "bizarre" and has vowed to continue serving the party in any position.
"I have fulfilled whatever responsibility the party has given to me in the past and will continue to do so even now. The organisation is bigger than any individual," Yadav was quoted as saying in a HT report.
Yadav and Bhushan have met with AAP leaders and called for a reconstitution of the Political Affairs Committee even while accepting that Kejriwal was 'a first among equals'.
In what is likely a bid to defuse the situation, Yadav has also reportedly offered to leave the party's PAC and has already sought a fresh assignment from the national executive. Bhushan has also reportedly offered to do the same, according to a Economic Times report that quoted a unnamed AAP leader.
The leader was also quoted as saying that the situation also showed the grip Kejriwal had managed to get on the party.
The fundamental source of contention-- at least according to what has been leaked to the media -- is the issue of national expansion, with Yadav and Bhushan arguing that another leader take the reins of such an effort, while Kejriwal focuses on Delhi as chief minister. However, the problem for the party is that Kejriwal remains the party's only nationally recognisable face.
On the other hand, given the fact that they have been senior leaders of the party since its foundation, any move to remove or sideline Yadav and Bhushan will only dent the image of a party that has constantly touted its ability to encourage internal debate. But if such a debate becomes the source of festering internal dissent and battle for position within the party, AAP's ability to effectively govern will be undermined, and it will continue to make headlines for all the wrong reasons.
AAP has always been the weakest in victory, and most likely to make strategic mistakes -- as it did the last time it claimed the gaddi in Delhi. It remains to be seen whether its leaders have grown wiser with experience or are set on repeating yet another expensive self-goal that will forever hamper their next five years on power.
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Updated Date: Mar 02, 2015 14:45:03 IST