AAP rebels mull floating new party

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New Delhi: After their dramatic, unprecedented and controversial public expulsion from the National Executive (NE) of the fledgling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) at Saturday’s National Council meet in New Delhi, Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan- two of the most prominent faces of the party, and its founding members have hinted that they might form another political party. 

In a hurriedly called meeting at Bhushan’s residence in Jangpura on Monday, 30 March, to decide the future course of action, the rebel faction, reportedly discussed three likely options. Bhushan said, “We have three options. We can approach the Election Commission or courts, to retrieve the party from Kejriwal and his coterie. This is something that I find personally distasteful. The second option is to start something new politically which carries forward the objectives and founding principles that we had in mind when AAP was created and the third is to not get involved in a political party but start a people’s movement taking up issues of land rights and many other things. The objective is to channelize the positive energy that idealistic volunteers and members have in a positive direction to ensure systemic changes.” He said a decision would be taken after consulting people from all walks of life.

As a step towards testing the political waters, the duo will hold a national consultation of their supporters on April 14, B R Ambedkar’s birthday. The meeting will include AAP members who are close to the rebels and people from other civil society movements. Former AAP internal Lokpal Admiral L Ramdas and Narmada Bachao Andolan’s Medha Patkar will also be invited.

Sources said that the convention would likely see the attendance of many AAP members aggrieved by the events of Saturday’s National Council. “There will be volunteers, National Council members and also members who are still in the National Executive. You will be surprised at some of the names that have expressed their willingness to participate. There are also some who didn’t want to be part of the AAP because of Arvind Kejriwal who might also attend,” he said.

Sources said that the convention would discuss strategies in the light of recent developments of the AAP. 

“We can either approach the courts and continue to fight within the party. Some volunteers are outraged and want to go this way, but most believe that this is a political battle, and not a legal one. Going to the courts is a long, bitter, negative and protracted battle which people may not want. However, the option of court is open to challenge the hooliganism in the National Council,” a leader said.

They said that the convention would discuss the option of forming a separate political party. “That is one of the options while the other is to form a front that fights on key issues. There are so many that the country suffers from like land acquisition, forest rights and so on. It is all a matter of discussion at this stage, but most believe that these are the two most viable options before us,” a leader said.

On Saturday, 28 March, a resolution to remove the two dissident leaders- Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav from the National Executive was passed immediately after party chief Arvind Kejriwal left the National Council following his hour-long speech in which he asked the 311 members present to choose him or the duo. The resolution was introduced by 147 members and read out by Kejriwal loyalist Manish Sisodia. No show-cause notice was give to Bhushan or Yadav, nor were they allowed to speak at the meeting.

The resolution to expel Yadav and Bhushan along with their supporters Anand Kumar and Ajit Jha was passed by 247 members, AAP national secretary Pankaj Gupta said, adding that 10 members opposed it and 54 others did not take part in the voting. The 54 who abstained from voting included all those who had walked out of the meeting along with Yadav and Bhushan.

Immediately after their removal, Bhushan and Yadav termed the NC meet “unconstitutional and illegal” and did not rule out taking legal recourse against their removal. Reacting to the NC decision, party leader and Narmada Bachao Andolan head Medha Patkar in Mumbai announced her resignation saying Yadav and Bhushan could never work against the party.

Saturday’s dramatic developments brought the month-long acrimonious exchanges between Kejriwal loyalists and the dissidents to a climax. The Yadav-Bhushan duo had been ousted from the all-powerful political affairs committee earlier this month. During his speech, Kejriwal gave an account of party’s journey to power in Delhi. He also alleged that Yadav and Bhushan, the founder members, were trying to weaken the party and had been conspiring against the AAP for the past one year.

In a 44-minute, partly emotional speech at Saturday’s meeting, the video of which was released on Sunday, Kejriwal made several accusations against the other two co-founders of the party. “People of Delhi trusted us and voted to power but our own friends backstabbed us. They called me a cheat, which even the Congress and the BJP did not dare to,” said an emotional Kejriwal.

He said Bhushan and Yadav had worked against the party for the past one year while being within, and had prevented people from funding it ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha election.

The AAP chief blamed the two men for the mess the AAP was finding itself in despite winning a smashing victory in the Delhi election in February.

He said both Yadav and Bhushan kept leaking to the media information that harmed the AAP.

“Who benefitted from this? I? Yogendra Yadav? Prashant Bhushan? No! Parties like the BJP and the Congress benefitted,” he said. 

The 46-year-old chief minister accused Bhushan and Yadav of tripping the party when they should have honoured the Delhi mandate.

Claiming that his barely two-month-old government had achieved much more than what Prime Minister Narendra Modi had managed to in 10 months, he lamented that it had all gone waste.

“We should have worked to make Delhi a model city. When we should have been in news for our positive work, we were on the front pages because of all the wrong reasons.”

Amid repeated applause, Kejriwal cited examples to claim that many of the accusations heaped against him by the dissidents were baseless.

Before concluding, he said: “It is for you to understand whether the fight that has been going for the last one-and-a-half months is a fight of principles or ambitions.”

“You have to select them or me,” he said, taking out his resignation as the National Convenor and from the Political Affairs Committee, the National Executive and the National Council.

“If you select them, then I will step down from all posts and work as an ordinary party worker,” he said, before leaving the meeting. –EJ

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