Last minute drama behind Yadav, Bhushan's ouster: Kejriwal played hardball, threatened to quit
Drama, backroom intrigues, frantic calls, floor management, allegations, counter-allegations and threats of exposes and stings marked the meeting of the Aam Aadmi Party's national executive meeting in Delhi on Friday.
Drama, backroom intrigue, frantic calls, floor management, allegations, counter-allegations and threats of exposes and stings marked the meeting of the Aam Aadmi Party's national executive in Delhi on Friday.
In the end, the decision to oust Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan was taken by an 11-8 majority. But the final word came from Arvind Kejriwal, who put his foot down and refused to withdraw his resignation until the two senior leaders were thrown out.
Though Kejriwal was not present at the venue, sources said he was contacted at a crucial juncture when the members seemed to agree to a suggestion made by Yadav and Bhushan to reconstitute the body and hold fresh elections. The Delhi CM, however, was in no mood to yield even an inch to those backing Yadav and Bhushan.
The script for the removal of the duo was written much before the meeting began on Wednesday afternoon on the outskirts of Delhi. Early in the morning, AAP leader Pankaj Gupta reportedly called up Yadav and Bhushan to convey to them that Kejriwal had quit the national convenor's post and had refused to reconsider the decision unless some issues against the duo were sorted out.
Later, three important members of the AAP were sent to convey to Yadav and Bhushan that the national executive and members of the Delhi unit had lost faith in them and that they step down to break the 'stalemate' within the party.
In response, Yadav and Bhushan suggested that fresh elections be held for the PAC. Both volunteered not to contest. The intermediaries seemed amenable to the suggestion and it was decided that the idea would be discussed by the executive. In the meantime, Bhushan sent two messages to Kejriwal, but he did not respond.
Before the meeting, there was some last-minute drama. The Kejriwal faction counted its numbers and realised that it had ten people supporting the decision to remove Yadav and Bhushan; nine were opposed to it. (Apart from Kejriwal, Mayank Gandhi also opted out). Not willing to take a chance, the Kejriwal faction reportedly called up the Rajasthan unit of AAP and asked it to not send a particular member - they feared would oppose the decision to oust Yadav and Kejriwal - for the meeting. When they were told that he had already left to attend the meeting, the state unit was asked to send someone else - a member loyal to the Kejriwal faction. With the last-minute 'management' done, the stage was set for an 11-8 verdict.
When the meeting began, Manish Sisodia moved the proposal for removing Yadav and Bhushan. "Both of them have lost the faith of the PAC, the national convener and the Delhi unit. Since there is a stalemate, it has been decided to remove them from the PAC," he said in Hindi. It was seconded by Sanjay Singh.
When the executive talked about considering the suggestion that the PAC be reconstituted and fresh elections be held in which Yadav and Bhushan will not participate, somebody called up Kejriwal from the venue. When the Delhi CM refused to accept the idea of a fresh election, only the proposal to remove Yadav and Bhushan was put to vote. And that is when the fate of the duo was sealed.
In between, there were several heated arguments and allegations. Yadav was told about the conversation he had with an Indian Express reporter-taped by Kejriwal's close aide-in which he had discussed the schism within the AAP over the plans to contest in Haryana. They were told about the leaked letters, accused of 'anti-party' activities.
None of the issues raised by Yadav and Bhushan-selection of candidates, sourcing of funds, details of election expenses, one-person-one-post principle-- were discussed at the meeting.
Kejriwal's resignation was rejected.
So, is this the end of the storm in the AAP? Will Yadav and Bhushan be given fresh responsibilities?
By all indications, this is just the beginning of an ugly battle within the AAP. In a few days, more dirt is likely to fall out of the AAP cupboards and there could be a lot of muck-raking within the party.
According to sources present at the meeting, the AAP leaders seem to have conducted several stings on Yadav and Bhushan. One of the AAP leaders apparently recorded a conversation between Yadav and Kejriwal and is now threatening to release it to the media.
The Kejriwal faction is unlikely to be too lenient with the eight members who objected to the ouster of Yadav and Bhushan. They could be on the party's hit-list next.
The fight-to-finish has just begun in Kejriwal's AAP.
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