The Aam Aadmi Party recorded a telephonic conversation with a journalist — without her knowledge — who wrote a critical piece on the party and that recording is now being used to build a case against Yogendra Yadav in the ongoing feud within the party.
In the conversation, held on August 29, 2014, Bibhav Kumar, now personal aide to Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, called Chander Suta Dogra, then working with The Hindu and now Associate Editor with The Indian Express, over her piece “Fading promise of the Indian Spring” published in The Hindu that day.
The article was critical of the party’s strategy in Punjab and Haryana, particularly the AAP’s decision not to contest the Assembly elections. According to the article, the Haryana AAP unit — Yadav was a leading member — had established a formidable structure and most volunteers were enthusiastic of contesting state polls, a decision which was vetoed by Kejriwal, AAP national convenor.
Kumar, according to the recording — made public by a section of AAP today — called Dogra and claimed there were factual errors in her piece. To which Dogra said that it was based on remarks made by a top AAP leader who had called an informal breakfast meeting with her and four other journalists.
“Kinhone bataya (Who told you),” Kumar asks, according to the recording posted online. To which, Dogra replies, “…Yogendra Yadav had called three or four journalists for a breakfast meeting.”
Kumar was unavailable for comment despite several calls and text messages.
When asked why the recording was made and at whose behest, AAP spokesperson Deepak Bajpai told The Indian Express: “The national executive has been made aware of the matter. We would not like to comment on something that’s an internal party matter, this will all be discussed internally in the national executive (on March 4).”
This recording was brought up at the heated National Executive meeting on February 26 — first reported in The Indian Express — and finds mention in Delhi Secretary Dilip Pandey’s letter to the Disciplinary Committee, where he presents this as proof of “anti-party activities” by Yadav.
In his letter Pandey wrote, “There was a negative story published in The Hindu in last week of August, 2014. The story was negative and was clearly meant to tarnish the image of Party and its convenor Arvind Kejriwal. The story was not only factually incorrect it seemed motivated by vested interests. When the journalist who did the story was confronted as to why the facts were misrepresented, she said it could not be so as she was briefed by Mr Yogendra Yadav himself. This whole conversation was recorded and is available as evidence. This incident further substantiates the factum of the larger conspiracy to weaken the party.”
When contacted, Yadav told The Indian Express: “It’s a double jeopardy: a journalist reveals her source, holds the wrong person responsible to cover her tracks, someone does clandestine recording and then makes it public for settling inner-party dispute. So happens that I am at the receiving end of ethical violation from both ends.”
Since the Lok Sabha rout, Yadav and senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan have raised questions on inner-party democracy and a personality cult within the AAP revolving around Kejriwal. Their detractors have used the recording as evidence of Yadav attempting to undercut Kejriwal to “usurp” the post of national convenor of the party.