On Thursday, the internal faultlines within the AAP translated into a much more tangible divide, with their party office divided into two clear halves. While one half, “taken over” by supporters of Kumar Vishwas, made a bid for his ascent to the Rajya Sabha, the other half, occupied by “the party loyalists”, fumed over what they described as a “BJP-sponsored takeover”.
At the office was a scooter mounted with Vishwas’s face and Bollywood lyrics, an LED screen to project his speeches and mattresses for the supporters. Maintaining that Vishwas’s supporters had given “no prior intimation” of the event, the party quickly put up a sign that specified that office timings end at 5 pm. AAP media manager Vikas Yogi said: “They first came last night. Of course, our security guard could not let them in. There was no one from the party that time, just a truck with the wares. They landed up at the office again at 10 am today. Some are AAP members but the rest are strangers. This is a BJP-sponsored invasion of the party office.”
Vishwas’s supporters, however, had another story to tell. Their argument was that the party that had started on the plank of ‘Swaraj’ or decentralisation of power quickly dissolved into what it had opposed — a centralised monolithic party with Kejriwal and his “coterie” at the heart of it. Avinash Tripathi, the former Awadh coordinator for the party, explained: “We can’t understand why the party is looking to get people from outside for the Rajya Sabha nominations. Why can’t they nominate the leaders who everyone wants — like Kumar Vishwas or Sanjay Singh. Power has become so concentrated that these decisions are made by a few people.”
At the heart of this division lies one faction’s opposition to nominate Vishwas to the Rajya Sabha. Earlier, in May, Vishwas had threatened to quit the party — a move that had triggered the fear of the party breaking up. This was after AAP MLA from Okhla Amanatullah Khan had referred to him as an “RSS agent”. The incident had prompted the party top brass to rush to his house to pacify him by offering the leadership of the party’s Rajasthan unit, besides action against Khan.
While Khan’s suspension has been revoked and he is likely to be made the Waqf Board chairperson in the capital, Vishwas is being sidelined. Meanwhile, a police complaint was filed by the party, alleging trespass prompting heavy police presence at the party office. While senior police officers attempted to pacify the ongoing tussle within the party, one admitted, “There’s not much we can do here, it is their internal issue. We also don’t want to physically remove them. We are hoping that they will leave on their own.”
The drama and the confusion continued, cyclically. With the police repeatedly interacting with both factions. Finally, at 7 pm Vishwas appealed against any “unrest” on social media. “My sincere appeal to AAP volunteers gathering at party office, (please) refer to my (November) 26 appeal, country first, party next and person last. Fight for swaraj, back to basics, transparency, but I won’t appreciate any unrest in my name. Abhimanyu is a winner, even if killed,” he wrote. By 7:45 pm everyone left the premises. The scooter with Vishwas’s face and the lyrics, “Ek din bik jayega, maati ke mol. Jag mein reh jayenge, pyaare tere bol,” was driven out. Despite repeated attempts, Vishwas refused to comment.