AAP dissident leader Prashant Bhushan on Monday hit back at the party leadership over the show-cause notice issued to him by the National Disciplinary Committee (NDC), accusing its members Pankaj Gupta of accepting donations from dubious companies and Ashish Khetan of doing a “paid news” story, favouring a company.
I received your “show cause Notice” at around 11 pm on the 17th. The emergency in the party to deal with it is reflected in your asking me to respond by 6 pm yesterday. It is indeed remarkable and ironic that you along with Ashish Khetan and Dinesh Vaghela have sent this notice to us, styling yourself as the “National Disciplinary Committee”. I am not aware as to who has constituted this as the National Disciplinary Committee and when and how this was done. Ever since the illegal and unconstitutional meeting of the National Council on the 28th of March where 4 of us were purportedly removed from the NE, it appears that a number of ad hoc announcements have been made through the media organs of the party about changes in various committees etc. All of these purported decisions taken since the NC meeting are illegal since the constitution of the NE itself has been illegal since the NC meeting.
You know Pankaj that you along with Manish Sisodia and Sanjay Singh had issued a Press release on March 10, accusing me and Yogendra Yadav of many of the same charges that have been made in your ‘Show Cause Notice’. Ashish Khetan had also leveled various charges against me which he subsequently apologized for. You now want to become judges of your own cause! You also know that there have been serious charges against you yourself, which should have been referred to the National Lokpal, Admiral Ramdas. These included the acceptance of ‘donations’ of Rs. 2 Crores from shell companies, without taking the approval of the PAC as required by the party’s rules, as well as of stalling and not executing the decisions of the National Disciplinary Committee which I was heading and of which you were a member. But instead of referring those serious allegations against you to the Lokpal as required by the Party Constitution, you have now removed Admiral Ramdas! You might also know that Ashish Khetan has been accused of writing a planted story for Tehelka in defence of the Essar Company which was charge sheeted by CBI in the 2G case, for having created a benami company, Loop Telecom, and thereby managed a second licence against the rules. In his article titled, “The Madness in CBI’s method” which appeared in the Tehelka issue of December 31, 2011, Khetan had sought to defend Essar by relying on the opinion of the then law Minister Salman Khurshid, the very opinion for which we had charged Khurshid. Khurshid was one of the 15 ministers against whom we had asked for an SIT, for which Arvind, Manish and Gopal Rai had also fasted at Jantar Manter. And the internal emails of Essar which are now available, show that Nancy Jain of the corporate communication department of Essar had written to her bosses on 6/1/12, while detailing her activities for December 2011 that Khetan’s story was one of the stories that she had “coordinated” in December 2011. Moreover Tehelka was paid several Crores by Essar at that time for their ‘Thinkfest’ at Goa. Will this therefore not qualify as a ‘paid news’ story? Instead of removing Khetan from the party for this, he has now been rewarded by being appointed as the chairperson of the Delhi Dialogue commission and as a member of the National Disciplinary committee! And now Khetan and you will sit in judgement over us!
However without prejudice to the above, I do want to respond to some of your ridiculous charges. You have charged us with having defamed the party by giving an incorrect account of the National Council meeting. It was in order to ensure that there would be no dispute about what really happened at that meeting, that I had asked in writing for us to be allowed to videograph the meeting. It was for that reason that I had asked that Admiral Ramdas be allowed to attend the meeting as per his desire and as per past practice. However, you told him not to attend the meeting “to avoid any confrontation”, prompting Admiral Ramdas to remark, “I am surprised to hear that there is apprehension that the presence of the internal Lokpal could possibly cause confrontation! One wonders why, with whom and what about?”
However the reason for your apprehension of confrontation became clear from the manner in which the NC meeting was conducted. It became obvious that the aggression of the MLA’s and bouncers who were not members of the NC and who were still invited by you for the meeting was with a clear plan that Arvind’s provocative speech would be the trigger for them to indulge in this hoodlumery and lumpenism which they did, and thus disrupt the meeting. You obviously were privy to the plan to create this “confrontation”, which you did not want Admiral Ramdas to witness. And that is why, far from allowing us to videograph the proceedings, you took away our mobile phones pens and footwear as well, to ensure that no one would be able to record the planned violence and disruption of the meeting. And even the official video that was organized by you was not released in full and only a carefully edited version was released. Do you still want us to answer your charge that we had presented an incorrect version of what transpired in that meeting? Scores of other people including the leader of our parliamentary party, Dr. Dharamvir Gandhi have attested to our version of what transpired at the NC meeting.
There were a host of illegalities at the NC meeting. A large number of founder members of the party were not invited or allowed in; I can send you a list if you want. A large number of non members were allowed in which included the MLAs who were invited. There was no segregation of voting and non voting members, no secret ballot, no orderly conduct of proceedings; I could go on and on about the series of illegalities. I had repeatedly asked you to send me copies of the persons who are founder members of the party, as well as a list of the persons whom you had invited for this meeting as well as for the previous NC meeting. But you did not do so. After having deliberately flouted every rule in the book in the conduct of this NC meeting and indeed being party to the planned and orchestrated violence and disorder in the meeting, you now accuse us of giving a false account of the NC meeting! I wonder how you live with your conscience?
You say that I have defamed the party by comparing the purge of NE members and others including the Lokpal to a “Stalinist Purge”. What else would you call the action to suspend/remove virtually anyone prominent who was objecting to the manner of our removal from the NE. When you remove NE members and even a Lokpal for merely questioning the illegal and unjustifiable actions of the Convenor or those who are in control of the party, when you label every dissenter as a traitor and charge him with anti party activities, when you try to instill fear among members of the party for merely questioning the drift of the party away from its founding principles, it does remind one of a Stalinist purge where similar things were done.
You accuse us of having conducted a ‘Swaraj Samvad’ and you label that as an anti party activity. As you know and as I have written in the open letters to the Volunteers and Arvind, and also in the letter given to the members of the National Executive on 26 February, there has been a very serious drift in the party away from its founding principles of Transparency, Accountability, democracy, clean politics and Swaraj, during the last year. We have not only refused to bring the party under RTI contrary to the law declared by the CIC, and contrary to our boast; we have not been transparent on our expenditure, our members, our office bearers, the decisions of our party, what to say of minutes of meetings. None of these are there on our party website. Far from being transparent, we seem to have developed a fear of transparency. We declared that we would have our internal Lokpals at the National, State and District levels who would be independent of the party and therefore we further provided in our constitution that the outgoing Lokpal would appoint their own sucessors. However, though we appointed a National Lokpal, we did not set up Lokpals in most States, what to say of Districts. When we suggested that the State Lokpals should be appointed in consultation with the National Lokpal, it was met with steadfast refusal from Arvind and his coterie, who said that they would be appointed by the party (whenever that happens). And most shamelessly, the National Lokpal was removed when he would found to be too independent, and a new Lokpal has been purportedly appointed without even consulting the outgoing Lokpal! So much for accountability. Ethical norms have repeatedly flouted by Arvind and his team, which includes you. Decisions of the NE have been repeatedly flouted; attempts made to form a government by breaking MLAs from the Congress Party (the very MLA’s who were accused by Arvind as having been bought by the BJP); Communal posters were got printed; fabricated SMSs were sent; surreptitious and objectionable underground social media campaigns were ordered to be undertaken by volunteers; objectionable candidates were selected without any transparency, etc. etc. All these have been detailed in my letters to the NE, Party volunteers and Arvind. Swaraj and inner party democracy was made a mockery of, and all decision making was sought to be centralized with the Convenor, with any dissent being victimized. And repeated attempts by us to correct all this, and bring the party back to its founding principles were not only stonewalled, but treated as anti party activities for which we should be expelled!
In such circumstances, a very large section of our idealistic volunteers were feeling betrayed by the party, were becoming despondent and progressively began to opt out and sit at home. It was in these circumstances that we had to organize a Swaraj Samvad, so that a campaign to resurrect the founding principles of the party could be undertaken; so that the energies of idealistic volunteers could be channelised towards constructive activism, to grapple with and find solutions through activism of some of the most pressing issues of our times. Why should activities which are in tune with the founding principles of the party and which take the vision of the party forward, be seen as anti party activity by the party, unless the party has come to disown its founding principles?
You say that one of the options to be voted upon, given to the people who attended the Swaraj Samvad, was to say if they felt that a new political party should be formed, and that giving such an option amounts to anti party activity. Such was the disillusionment with AAP, that this was indeed the sentiment of 25% of the people who voted on the options, despite our urging them, that we should try and take forward the vision and founding principles of AAP without forming a new party. In this attempt to stifle dissent, you seem to have forgotten Article 6, A (a), iv of our constitution which says, “Members, other than office bearers shall be free to express their opinion within and outside the party, unless there is a specific direction to the contrary by the party for a specific period. Mere expression of a difference of opinion will not be considered as violation of the Code of Conduct unless it violates the objectives of the party”. Do you now want to amend the Constitution and say; “Any action, speech or thought not liked by the party high command will be considered to be anti party activity and liable for summary action, even if that is to preserve the founding principles of the party”?
I am astounded that you have accused me of supporting AVAM by delaying the dismissal of Karan Singh’s appeal. It was you who kept delaying the taking up of Karan Singh’s appeal because you knew that it would lead to a can of worms. You know very well that I had asked you and Arvind to get the SMS sent in the name of AVAM investigated. Karan had specifically asked for it in his appeal. This SMS became the real basis for his suspension and expulsion as stated by Arvind in his google hangout. But both you and Arvind refused to have the matter investigated. Finally Karan lodged an FIR and the police investigation revealed that the SMSs in the name of AAVAAM were sent by our party volunteer named Deepak Chowdhary who had nothing to do with AVAM. That is why you did not want the appeal of Karan to be taken up.
But more serious than that, you as secretary of the party and as a member of the National Disciplinary Committee which I was heading, refused to implement the decisions taken in the meetings held on 13th August, 16th October and 5th November, despite my repeatedly asking for it, only because the decisions were being opposed by Sanjay Singh against whose protégés, actions had been decided by the NDAC. The minutes of the 3 meetings are annexed. On your inaction over this, on 2/11/14, I had sent you the following mail:
I understand that our decisions of the last meeting of the NDAC have not been implemented yet. This is not proper. The Notices prepared by Faheem seemed to be in order. They should be despatched without any delay.
But despite this, nothing was done. On 12th November 2014 therefore, I sent you the following follow up mail:
Have the decisions of the last meeting of the disciplinary committee been executed. If not, they must be immediately executed. The delay in execution is just fanning anarchy in the party and making us a laughing stock.
Still nothing was done by you to implement the decisions. A brief account of how various decisions that were taken by us at the NDAC were thwarted by you is annexed to this reply.
Pankaj, you will recall that after last NDAC meeting on 9th November, you stated there will not be any NDAC meeting till elections are over. Further, when Neeraj, a member of the Grievance Redressal committee called Sabhajeet Singh for an investigation, Sanjay Singh told the secretary of the GRC Faheem to throw Neeraj out of party. It was thus absolutely clear that you stalled the implementation of the decisions of the NDAC under the pressure of Sanjay Singh. After having flouted all rules and norms of the party and having willfully abused your position as the Secretary of the party to protect protégés of Sanjay Singh et al from disciplinary action, you still feel no shame in accusing me of protecting Karan Singh!
You have also accused me of wanting the party to lose the Delhi elections, stopping donors from donating to the party and stopping volunteers from coming for the campaign. I have responded to these charges in my open letter to Arvind which is also attached to this reply. However, to reiterate briefly, when the problems with candidate selection were not being addressed, I did threaten to resign, and make my reasons for my resignation public. It was after this that a meeting was called at my residence on the 4th of January where you were also present, and where I said to that in my opinion, even winning the elections with such opportunistic and tainted candidates would destroy our party in the long run and that it would be better to go with honourable candidates even if that meant losing the elections. It was only after this that the complaints against candidates was agreed to be sent to our Lokpal who in the short time that he had, ordered the removal of 2 and the issuance of warnings to another 6. Though 2 were removed, you did not send the warnings to the 6. It was also agreed that many issues of institutional reforms would be taken up in the NE meeting to be held within 2 days of the elections. But you never placed those on the agenda of the NE meeting which was eventually held on the 26th Feb.
I never said or did anything to make the party lose the elections. If I wanted the party to lose the elections, I would have actually resigned at that time and made my reasons public, which would have meant disclosing all the unethical things that had been happening in the party. When people asked me about donations or volunteering, I had told them that they should do so for candidates that they considered proper and not indiscriminately, since there were in my view several dubious candidates who had been given tickets this time. As a founder and leader of a party founded on very idealistic principles, I consider it my public duty to do whatever I can, to ensure that the Party does not stray away from its founding principles. I also consider it my public duty to honestly advise those who are asking me whether they should spend their time and money, sometimes at the cost of their jobs. I consider my duty to public interest and to the country above any duty to the Party. But in the case of our party, which I helped to found and grow, I do not feel that there is any conflict between my public duty and my obligation to the party. Our party was founded only as a vehicle for public interest, and not as an election winning machine, and therefore I do not consider that there is any interest of our party which can be served by doing anything against public interest.
Finally, since the contents of the show cause notice have been given to the media, I am left with no choice but to make this response public as well.