If it fails to obtain relief from courts on the disqualification of 20 of its MLAs, AAP is staring at the possibility of bypolls in Delhi, with party leaders bracing for what they feel is a more imminent threat — cracks within the ranks.
Speaking to The Indian Express, a senior AAP leader said, “There are concerns that the dissidents could restart the process of attempting to poach legislators who won on AAP tickets. They will make all possible efforts to try and break the party. But this is something that we have been aware of and have been taking precautions.”
Sources close to Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said: “Right now, the party has not even received a notice from the EC, so we don’t think this will get resolved overnight. The BJP will stretch this and we need to prepare accordingly and take care of all possibilities.”
Factionalism within AAP spilled out in the open in May 2016, when former minister Kapil Mishra accused Kejriwal of corruption. The party has also been at loggerheads with Kumar Vishwas, who was accused by AAP’s Delhi convener Gopal Rai of “attempting to topple the Delhi government”.
At least three MLAs — Bijwasan MLA Devinder Sehrawat, Timarpur MLA Pankaj Pushkar and former environment minister and Matia Mahal MLA Asim Ahmad Khan — are also at loggerheads with the party leadership.
“There is no reason for me to give up my seat yet. Even if I were to, I will win. But right now, I will campaign against AAP and Kejriwal’s corrupt government in the upcoming bypolls,” said Mishra.
If the MLAs are disqualified, AAP’s numbers will decrease from 66 to 46, still 11 seats above the halfway mark in the 70-member house. But at a time when the party has begun campaign preparations for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, party leaders admitted that preparing for “unnecessary and politically motivated bypolls” could be an added burden.
Taking to Twitter, Kejriwal wrote, “When you take the path of honesty, you are bound to face hurdles. This is natural. However, all the forces of universe come together to help you. God helps you. Because, you are not working for your own selfish goals, you are working for the country and the society. History is witness that in the end, truth prevails.”
Asked about the way forward, AAP spokesperson Saurabh Bhardwaj accused the EC of working to the “whims of Prime Minister Narendra Modi”.
“There are different options that we will look at. We are hopeful that the High Court or the Supreme Court will give us relief in the matter. The fact is that the Election Commission has taken a unilateral decision that goes against the principle of natural justice. They have not even heard the stand of these 20 MLAs before taking this decision,” he said.
“I would first and foremost like to ask those who voted for these 20 MLAs, if they have ever seen any of them benefit in any way from their post. Do they travel in a private vehicle or do they have massive mansions? People of Delhi know that we are being targeted by the BJP and its machinery because we are doing good work,” claimed Bhardwaj.
Senior AAP leaders also noted that while West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee spoke up for their party, the Congress did not. “What the Congress doesn’t realise is that Delhi is the BJP’s laboratory for this kind of politics. Look at the raids by various agencies… it started with us and went on to target all Opposition parties. The Congress speaks of Opposition unity… when this kind of politics was used to target them in states like Mehghalaya, AAP spoke in favour of them. It is unfortunate how the Delhi Congress is behaving now.”
If the EC’s recommendations are approved by the President, bypolls will take place in 20 Assembly constituencies, including Dwarka, Chandni Chowk, Najafgarh, Jungpura, Rajender Nagar, Janakpuri, Wazirpur, Gandhi Nagar, Kalkaji, Kondli, Laxmi Nagar and Mehrauli.
Among the heavyweights impacted by the EC order are Transport Minister Kailash Gahlot, who is the party’s star campaigner in the rural constituencies of outer Delhi. Other prominent legislators include Alka Lamba and Adarsh Shastri.