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How the AAP founders were hounded out

 
Until 4 March 2015, this group was the flag bearer for the Aam Aadmi Party. Cometh the crisis, cometh apart this group. One a top lawyer and an anti-corruption crusader with “ultra left leanings”. The other, cast in a Lohiaite mould, with a formidable credibility as an intellectual! And then the man himself - short in height but very high in political pragmatism.  They were always together before television cameras. 


Yogendra-Kejriwal-Prashant-Reuters3.jpg
Photo: Courtesy Reuters

Until 4 March 2015, this group was the flag bearer for the Aam Aadmi Party. Cometh the crisis, cometh apart this group. One a top lawyer and an anti-corruption crusader with “ultra left leanings”. The other, cast in a Lohiaite mould, with a formidable credibility as an intellectual! And then the man himself - short in height but very high in political pragmatism.  They were always together before television cameras. 

That was till Wednesday 7.30 pm. At this time, Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav were summarily dismissed from the highest decision making body ,political affairs committee (PAC) of the very party they had helped in establishing. The National Executive (NE) consisting of 21 voting members, voted: 11 for their expulsion, 8 against their expulsion and 2 abstained.

I spoke to several members present at the AAP National Executive meeting to put together a sequence of what really happened during the five and a half hour meeting.

A day before the meeting, the warning signs were there for Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan. The Delhi leadership of the party consisting of Manish Sisodia, Ashutosh and Ashish Khaitan were clearly of the view that if AAP has to grow further, it needs to first get rid of those who were questioning the directions and political tools being used. Even during the National Executive meeting, the divergence was clear between the political processes that Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan wanted to follow and what Arvind Kejriwal wished to espouse.

What really is the difference between the two approaches? During the Delhi Assembly elections, Arvind Kejriwal was convinced by his key aides that winnability and nothing else needed to be at the top of the mind for the party. The "winnability at all costs” reached to the point of taking in candidates who had a criminal past, in some cases those given AAP tickets were quick to trade those for a BJP ticket.

In other words, the in-house scrutiny mechanism which was the hallmark of AAP in 2013 was now clearly a thing of the past. A senior National Executive member who spoke to me on the condition of anonymity said, "the problem with Yogendra and Prashant is that they attach more importance to the processes rather than the actual outcome. Arvind believes in looking at the outcome first and then the processes. This is at the heart of the discord between the two".

The meeting on Wednesday kicked off with a similar divergence. Party leader Kumar Vishwaas was asked to chair the meeting. He began by telling the members, "Whatever we do here, we must first think of the volunteers outside. If our volunteers are not happy with our action then we should think whether there can be any other solution".

Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav came up with the following two suggestions:

1. Don't sack us, dissolve the entire PAC. We won't re-nominate ourselves. We will be out.

2. The PAC has been dysfunctional for 6 months; it will complete its term in November. Let it continue till then, we won’t attend any of the PAC meetings till then if any are called. Elect a new PAC then. We will be out

But the meeting was not called to hammer out a solution for Messrs.’ YY and PB. It was called to send a message to all. Arvind Kejriwal is the supreme leader and all must accept his leadership and style of functioning.. Those "questioning" the processes associated with the leadership will have to bow out. The meeting took a break once these formulae were on the table.

Ashutosh and Ashish Khaitan, not members of the National Executive but still sitting in the room adjacent to the one where the meeting was being held were in regular touch with Arvind Kejriwal. Manish Sisodia took this proposal to the two. They conferred with Arvind on the phone. He had already made up his mind. Decision was arrived at. 

But the 11 in favor of YY+PB’s removal and 8 against their removal also suggests a different narrative. The main objection raised by Yogendra Yadav was that there was a lack of inner party democracy. So how does one view the 8 members supporting YY+PB? Doesn’t this point to vibrant inner party democracy where members support a duo that has lost the trust of the supreme leader? Or does this show that perhaps there is merit in what’s being suggested by YY+PB? That indeed party is becoming personality centric. 

According to another pro Kejriwal National Executive member “ Internationally, history is full of examples where strong leaders have led organizational growth by their charismatic personalities. Arvind Kejriwal is a similar leader. How can we then have people on board who constantly question the impact of his personality?”

In all this, where is Arvind Kejriwal? If indeed he wanted YY+PB out, should he have not come for the National Executive meet? Why was he unwilling to face up to the event? Is this a sign of political astuteness or does this somewhere reflect a sense of insecurity on part of the muffler man??

For Prashant Bhushan, the courts perhaps will once again be where he will spend most of his time. For Yogendra Yadav though, the future could be difficult in political terrain. Can he remain a part of a party where the supreme leader himself is against him?? The answer could well provide us with another round of churning within the 3 year old party.

Tags: AAP, Arvind Kejriwal, Ashutosh, Delhi assembly elections 2015, Manish Sisodia, Prashant Bhushan, Yogendra Yadav