Shaken by the rout in the Lok Sabha elections and volunteers questioning the leadership for the debacle, the Aam Aadmi Party took another hit Saturday when Shazia Ilmi, one of its most popular faces, walked out of the party protesting “lack of inner-party democracy, perpetuation of sensationalism… and a crony clique who run the party and take impulsive decisions which we learn about later”.
Taking a direct swipe at chief Arvind Kejriwal — he is in jail for refusing a bail bond in a defamation case — Ilmi told reporters: “Are naming some corporate houses and politicians continuously enough… when we became a political party, it needed to evolve and not just assume the garb of agitation… Arvind has shot the messenger.”
She said she had been “systematically marginalised because I offer a voice of dissent and constructive criticism”. Along with Ilmi, Captain G R Gopinath, who pioneered low-cost air travel in the country, also resigned from the party saying Kejriwal practised politics of “shoot and scoot”.
Ilmi, who unsuccessfully contested the Delhi assembly elections and the Lok Sabha elections, said: “My decision to leave the party is triggered by a lack of inner-party democracy, specially from a party that constantly talks of Swaraj. We fight against cronyism but we have a crony clique who run the party and take impulsive decisions which we learn about later.”
“I find it amazing that we cannot follow the principles of Swaraj within our own party. When a brilliant person like Arvind, who espoused the concept of Swaraj, of collective decision-making is unable to follow it personally within the party, then doesn’t it become incumbent to point out the same?”
She said she disagreed with the “perpetuation of sensationalism” and the current “bail-jail imbroglio”: “Granted it may have helped us make our point initially but to continue to use it as a norm defeats the exercise of trust reposed in us by the public… One strongly believes that instead of wasting our collective energy on this bail-jail imbroglio, Arvind should actually be spending time with cadres, candidates, volunteers, critics.”
Asked if she would ever reconsider her decision to quit, she said: “If the party believes I can play a role, and am given a relevant role, then perhaps I will return.” When his comments were sought, AAP leader Yogendra Yadav said: “We are saddened by her decision to quit and hope that she will reconsider, since she also said that she wishes us well, and could return if her views are given relevance. We tried to convince her, but could not succeed. She was upset for the past couple of days. She had even placed her grievances before us at the national executive meeting. She wrote letters and spoke to some of the party members.”
Earlier in the day, AAP leaders Vandana Kumari and Somnath Bharti met Ilmi at her residence, and despite a claim from Bharti that the matter had been resolved, Ilmi went on to announce her resignation in the afternoon.
It is learnt that the party leadership has had several problems with Ilmi recently and things came to breaking point after she asked to be included in the party political affairs committee. She mentioned this on Saturday when she said, “I have spoken within the party about a woman being part of the PAC but nothing happened.”
The relationship between Ilmi and other party leaders were strained after a series of controversies including a video in which she appeared to be asking Muslims to be “communal” during elections — the video went viral on social media. Captain Gopinath, on his part, wrote a letter to AAP Karnataka convenor Prithvi Reddy: “I would like to resign from the membership of the Aam Admi Party with immediate effect because of increasing differences with the party leadership and its ways.”
In a blog entitled, “Has Kejriwal lost his way”, Gopinath wrote: “It’s one thing to gossip about it in private but when one holds a responsible position as head of a political party, one has to take responsibility and not, as some one described it, indulge in shoot and scoot politics, denigrating people’s reputation, however credible the rumours may seem and however tempting the chance to score brownie points or capture media attention and public sympathy as a crusader against corruption.” On Gopinath’s resignation, Yadav said, “I didn’t even know Gopinath had joined AAP.”