The divide in the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) reached a point of no-return Saturday when its national council, meeting amid extraordinary scenes of strife, expelled senior leaders Prashant Bhushan, Yogendra Yadav, Anand Kumar and Ajit Jha from its national executive for “anti-party activities”.
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The next step could be the ouster of the four from the party which returned to power in Delhi with a landslide victory less than two months ago.
Soon after their removal, Bhushan and Yadav mounted a scathing attack on AAP leader and chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, saying his “dictatorial tendencies” were instrumental in “the murder of democracy” by the council.
They alleged hooliganism and said at least one of the council members, Ramzan Choudhary, was assaulted by “bouncers” called to the meeting.
They said they retained the option of moving court or the Election Commission.
At the council meeting, Kejriwal was said to have again offered his resignation as party convenor. Bitter and emotional, he told members that “two teams of the party were at work during the Delhi election, one trying to ensure an AAP victory and the other working against it”. He asked members to “choose”.
The Kejriwal camp, which enjoys the support of most MLAs, also rejected the charge of hooliganism at the meeting. It hit back at Yadav and Bhushan, saying the Delhi unit of AAP could send a complaint to the disciplinary committee and seek expulsion of the four leaders from the party.
A resolution — it was said to have been signed by 167 of the 392 members of the council — to dismiss the four leaders was tabled at the meeting by deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia. The resolution, AAP general secretary Pankaj Gupta said, was passed by 247 of the 311 council members present at the meeting.
YY is spreading lies that NC members were beaten up in meeting.There was no scuffle or manhandling.It’s a cooked up story to gain sympathy.
— ashutosh (@ashutosh83B) March 28, 2015
Only a dozen members opposed proposal to expel them from NE and a few walked out of YY and PB. Overwhelming support to expel them fm NE.
— ashutosh (@ashutosh83B) March 28, 2015
“There were 311 members at the meeting. The resolution said Yogendra Yadav, Prashant Bhushan, Anand Kumar and Arvind Jha should be removed from the party because of their anti-party activities. Ten members opposed the resolution, including two in writing. Fifty four members abstained from voting. This includes those who walked out of the meeting (before the vote),” Gupta said.
Yadav and Bhushan did not wait for the vote. Ahead of the meeting, Yadav sat on a dharna outside for 20 minutes, claiming some opposed to Kejriwal were not being allowed inside. Supporters of both camps raised slogans, and those behind Kejriwal raised a cheer when the council decision was announced. Police had to throw a ring around Bhushan and Yadav as they emerged from the meeting.
Earlier, Kejriwal, in an hour-long address to the council, was said to have attacked Yadav and Bhushan for their role during the Delhi polls. He left the venue before Sisodia tabled the resolution. He also asked transport minister Gopal Rai to chair the session.
After Kejriwal left, Yadav and Bhushan too walked out of the meeting with their supporters. They alleged that Ramzan Choudhary was “thrashed and kicked” when he tried to speak at the meeting.
“It was murder of democracy. Everything played out in accordance with a pre-determined script and the resolution was moved and passed within minutes, completely disregarding laid down procedures. It was a total farce,” Yadav said.
Bhushan said, “It is true that we can move the court, Election Commission or call another meeting of the NC. All options are open.”
He alleged Kejriwal came fully prepared to “kick us out” from AAP. “Whatever Kejriwal was heard saying in a sting yesterday was played out in entirety at today’s meeting. There was no distinction between members and others. There was no discussion, no secret vote, no showing of votes at the meeting,” he said.
Refuting the charges, Kejriwal supporter Sanjay Singh said: “No fighting happened during the meeting. In fact, when Kejriwal was addressing the gathering, one of the members started shouting and was trying to disrupt his speech. It was only then that he was asked to stop, and that was the end of the matter. The allegation that Ramzan Choudhary was thrashed and kicked is incorrect.”
Earlier, Yadav also made public a letter by AAP’s internal Lokpal Admiral L Ramdas in which he stated he was skipping the council meeting since he had received a letter asking him “not to attend the NC meeting, via an SMS from the party general secretary (Pankaj Gupta) just a few hours ago”.
The SMS, according to Ramdas, said he should skip the meeting “to avoid any confrontation” since the council was the party’s “internal affair” and only MLAs and MPs had been invited other than the council members. “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 about what,” Ramdas said in his letter.