Hours after it appeared that the Maharashtra unit of the Aam Aadmi Party had plunged into a major crisis with state convenor Anjali Damania and state secretary Preeti Sharma Menon tendering their resignations, the two leaders withdrew their resignation amid a promise for restructuring and re-energising the party.
With 47 of the party's 48 candidates in Maharashtra having lost their deposit in the Lok Sabha elections and with Assembly elections coming up in Maharashtra, the planned restructuring of the state unit is critical, Anjali Damania tells Firstpost in an interview minutes before she boarded a flight to Delhi to attend the three-day national executive meeting of the Aam Aadmi Party.
Q. A resignation and then a withdrawal of resignation. What really went wrong?
A. After the Delhi win, a huge number of people entered the party. Some of these were good volunteers, but some were also opportunists who had tried to get tickets from other parties. Some of these people tried to create a mess within our party, they had come and spoilt the atmosphere of the party.
There were chain messages on Whatsapp, trail mails forwarded to 200-odd people. There was too much negativity -- even hardcore AAP volunteers were getting distracted. Morning, afternoon, evening I was dealing with just this negativity and was feeling a bit defeated, I felt the cause was getting lost. Remember that I and many like me never foresaw ourselves in politics, we did not join AAP to become MPs or get any other position but for a parivartan.
I was feeling a bit lost. I resigned on May 16 itself after the results came, but then so many things happened. Shazia resigned, Yogendra Yadav stepped down. In fact when the chintan shibir happened, I had begun to feel that I should get back to my old life. After all, volunteers are our only asset and negativity in them is the worst thing for us.
If you resigned on 16 May, why did the party not respond to your concerns earlier?
No, we had two meetings and my resignation was rejected. But I was still very uncomfortable. There were certain negative elements in the state executive committee and I felt we must have a re-election. If this meant all of us resigning and having fresh elections, so be it.
Yesterday, the volunteers compelled me to take my resignation back after we took a series of decisions regarding restructuring.
Who are these negative elements?
There are two people in the state executive, I would rather not name them. They are not the right people and so we have decided to dissolve the state executive.
What decisions prompted you to take your resignation back?
Three things. We have decided to dissolve the state committee completely. Two, our meetings will now be fully open. We talk of transparency, so we should be starting with ourselves. There will now be no decisions coming from above, no high command culture. And three, there was a rising distance between us and the volunteers. For example volunteers did not know the details of what happened in Delhi, the reasons for the dharna, for Arvind's resignation, his idea behind it, or about recent developments such as the jail bond, whether it was a personal bond, why he took the bond -- there was a huge disconnect between the volunteers and others. In the early days of the IAC movement and AAP, we would have weekly meetings in Nanavati School in Vile Parle. These had been halted for the last three months because we were all in different places for elections. These will now be restarted.
You've withdrawn your resignation but there's still so much strife in the party just months ahead of Assembly elections. Manish Sisodia and Yogendra Yadav seem to be having a faceoff, there have been other resignations.
Some churning is always there, in all parties. We had two elections so quickly one after the other, there was a huge inflow and outflow of people... Preeti and me see what happened as a blessing in disguise because when we spoke to volunteers yesterday, they understood what we were saying. Especially for people like me who are so emotional and passionate about work, this was very important.
All the volunteers were charged up yesterday. I said everyone is in this for the cause. If there is anybody who wants to indulge in negativity, then they should not approach me. I have a very comfortable life that I can return to. But the volunteers really undrestood what I was saying. We took an oath to stop the negativity-- no more Whatsapp chain messages and mail trails. If anybody has any discontentment then they should discuss it. After all, all our discussions (with likely candidates and others) have been videographed -- if they have any doubts they can see for themselves. If they still have any unhappiness they can raise it with the party. This practice of raising 18 to 19 questions in chain mails and messages is not the way forward.
We had a grievance redressal cell. Now if there are allegations by volunteers then a disciplinary committee will hear them. These basic things should have been put in place earlier, but we did everything in a year. Now there is a basic draft of our policy and restructuring going forward, this will be cidculated to all districts and will be finalised soon.
Elections are coming up again. What's next on the agenda?
We have the national executive committee meeting in Delhi for three days. We will first discuss the issue with the national team. I have prepared my presentation on what we have achieved and what needs to be done going forward. We have elections in Haryana, Maharashtra and other states. We hope to re-energise ourselves and ready for the Maharashtra Assembly campaign.
Updated Date: Jun 06, 2014 12:43:06 IST