As the fissures in the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) appear to deepen, a letter party leader Yogendra Yadav wrote to the party’s Political Affairs Committee, giving reasons for his resignation, has caused a storm in the party. In his letter, Yadav questioned the unbridled powers of the party’s national convener Arvind Kejriwal and asked “whether there are limits to personal discretion of the leader”.
Listing issues that plague the AAP, Yadav pointed to the widespread perception that the AAP, like other parties, was afflicted with “personality cult”. “There is no one who doubts that Arvind bhai is the undisputed leader within the party. He has richly earned this stature and we would not be where we are without his leadership. But there is a difference between a leader and a supremo. Love and affection for a leader often turns into a personality cult that can damage an organisation and the leader himself. This is what appears to be happening to our party,” he wrote.
“Major decisions of the party appear to, and indeed do, reflect the wishes of one person; when he changes his mind, the party changes its course of action; proximity to the leader comes to substitute for organisational roles and responsibilities. Since all the decisions and successes are credited to one person, all the blame also begins to accumulate at the doors of one person,” Yadav wrote.
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“Let me reiterate that Arvind bhai is no ordinary leader and there are no two opinions about his continuing as the national convener; nor have I ever doubted his status as first among equals within the party’s leadership. The real question is whether there are limits to personal discretion of the leader,” he wrote.
It was this letter that prompted party leader Manish Sisodia to write back to Yadav, questioning his behaviour over the past fortnight.
Detailing the decision to quit the PAC, Yadav wrote, “The heart of the matter is the decision-making process within our party. Our party stands for swaraj, for bottom-up, participatory decision making. We do so because we believe that remote decision making by a few powerful people is bad, even if the decision makers are well-intentioned. We seem to have forgotten that basic idea when it comes to decision making within our own party.”
“…the course of events in the last fortnight, following the election verdict, took me aback. It seemed that instead of introspection and course correction, we had started moving in the opposite direction. We got distracted from the real challenge and appeared to be diverting public attention. To my mind, we had not lost the election, but we did start losing something more valuable, our sense of direction and rectitude, after the elections… My resignation was above all an attempt to invite my colleagues in the national leadership of the party to face the election outcome and begin collective introspection,” he wrote.
Pointing to the trigger for his resignation, Yadav wrote, “Worse, there were attempts to divert all the blame to Political Affairs Committee and National Executive. Demands were raised for dissolving the PAC and the NE; its members were presented as power brokers who were unwilling to give up their positions. These expressions were not confined to a few volunteers. It was seriously suggested within a PAC meeting that all the members of PAC and NE should hand over their resignations to the national convener, giving him or a ‘search committee’ presided by him a free hand to reconstitute these bodies. All this reminded me of what happens in parties like the Congress and the BSP….”
“I waited for Arvind bhai to come out from jail and put an end to this chorus. Instead, in his first meeting with volunteers, Arvind bhai himself endorsed the anti-PAC sentiment, which amounted to an open expression of no confidence in his colleagues. This is when I decided to resign from the PAC, and also offered to step down from my responsibilities as spokesperson and in-charge of Haryana… this was a desperate attempt to stop what I saw as a rapid slide with disastrous consequences; having failed to convince my colleagues to attend to the challenge of party building, I had no option but to jolt them into some introspection,” Yadav wrote.
Yadav said the first issue that must be addressed, beginning with the party’s national executive from Friday, was the “absence of a mechanism for consulting volunteers”. “It was imperative that our party should have as little gap between the ‘leaders’ and the ‘led’, that we evolve mechanisms for consulting our own volunteers and supporters in all the key decisions. So far there is no such mechanism and there is little movement in that direction,” Yadav wrote.
Speaking out against the neglect of the National Executive and the “all powerful PAC”, Yadav wrote that the concentration of power in the hands of the PAC meant that “decision-making was confined to a few persons who were themselves unrepresentative in terms of gender, region and social groups and perhaps limited in their wisdom”.