Rajiv Gandhi’s Bharat Ratna row: WhatsApp group at centre of discord, AAP and Alka Lamba make peace a day laterhttps://indianexpress.com/article/cities/delhi/rajiv-gandhis-bharat-ratna-row-whatsapp-group-at-centre-of-discord-aap-and-alka-lamba-make-peace-a-day-later-5505616/

Rajiv Gandhi’s Bharat Ratna row: WhatsApp group at centre of discord, AAP and Alka Lamba make peace a day later

According to sources in AAP, as party leaders started asking how the part on withdrawing Rajiv Gandhi’s Bharat Ratna had crept into the resolution, MLA Alka Lamba asked, on the party’s internal WhatsApp group, what the AAP’s stand officially was.

Rajiv Gandhi’s Bharat Ratna row: WhatsApp group at centre of discord, AAP and Alka Lamba make peace a day later
AAP MLA Alka Lamba was at the centre of the Delhi Assembly resolution on withdrawing Rajiv Gandhi’s Bharat Ratna award. (File photo)

Within half an hour of the Delhi Assembly resolution being read out by AAP MLA Jarnail Singh, the confusion had set in.

According to sources in AAP, as party leaders and MLAs started asking how the part on withdrawing Rajiv Gandhi’s Bharat Ratna had crept into the resolution, Chandni Chowk MLA Alka Lamba asked, on the party’s internal WhatsApp group, what the AAP’s stand officially was.

This was after she had tweeted a photograph of the resolution passed on Friday.

Explained: How a resolution is passed, decoded

“There was genuine confusion on what the party’s stand was. The resolution was witnessing backlash from within the party. A legislator is already in talks with Congress to discuss the possibility of an understanding for 2019, and this could put an end to that. Responding to Lamba on the WhatsApp group, a very senior party member asked her what was the point of asking for the party’s stand when she had already tweeted,” a source said. Lamba responded that she wasn’t the only one from AAP who spoke publicly about the resolution being passed, the source said.

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Party officials confirmed that disciplinary action was then ordered against Somnath Bharti, who had slipped in the line about Rajiv, and Lamba. “She wrote on the group that she was willing to resign from the party’s primary membership as well as the MLA seat. She was then asked to send her resignation,” a senior party leader said.

But the party and Lamba have since reconsidered their decision, and Lamba said on Saturday that she had not resigned from AAP.

Lamba, who was earlier the party’s official spokesperson, was removed from the position in 2016 when she said that former Transport Minister Gopal Rai was asked to resign from his post to ensure a fair probe into allegations of corruption. She had also been booked for allegedly vandalising a shop in Chandni Chowk during an anti-corruption drive. A Delhi court this year dropped criminal proceedings against her.

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The DUSU president in 1995, Lamba was a member of the Congress-backed NSUI. She later moved to the Congress and stayed with the party till 2013, joining AAP almost a year after its formation.

She also contested the Delhi Assembly polls in 2003 but lost.

According to AAP leaders, the party has decided to try and put the incident to rest, and is not insisting on Lamba’s resignation anymore. “The party is keen on putting the incident behind it. Coalition talks have already been hit hard because of Friday’s gaffe,” the source said.

However, sources said disciplinary action has been taken against Bharti and Lamba, and both have been removed as spokespersons. The two were never officially appointed spokespersons, but were sought out by news channels for comments and to represent the party in debates.