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At the centre of storm, AAP tries to steady ship

Even Vishwas backers change line as party tries to put up united front

Written by Sweta Dutta | New Delhi |
Updated: May 8, 2017 4:35:45 am
AAP party news, AAP Party news, latest news, Aam Aadmi Party, Arvind Kejriwal, Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav, India news, national news, AAP Party news, Sisodia outside CM’s house; left ( Photo by Amit Mehra). Kapil Mishra addresses the media at Rajghat on Sunday morning. (PTI Photo)

Even as the storm raging within the Aam Aadmi Party refuses to die down, the allegations of corruption made by ousted cabinet minister Kapil Mishra against AAP chief and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal on Sunday brought disgruntled MLAs, party leaders and volunteers together to put up a united front.

AAP MLAs and volunteers, who were till late last week wavering and vacillating between the two dominant camps led by Kejriwal and senior leader Kumar Vishwas, shed their differences to battle the charges against the party.

The rank and file of the party discussed in hushed tones whether Mishra was being propped up by AAP’s political rivals or by Vishwas, for whom Mishra had sought a larger role in the party over the past week. No one, however, pointed fingers at Kejriwal. “Even his political rivals and expelled AAP leaders like Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav have refused to believe this. Most senior leaders in the party have known him for years and can accuse him of other excesses, but not corruption,” said a party functionary.

“I might agree with charges of power greed, arrogance, authoritarianism against Kejriwal, but charge of taking bribe need solid evidence,” tweeted Yadav, who was expelled from the party after it came to power in Delhi in 2015.

“Asking AK to resign is premature, yet Mishra’s serious allegations must be probed. But what of Modi’s 65 cr? No probe?” tweeted Bhushan and followed it up with, “The true test of character comes in adversity. We are now seeing the true faces of AAP’s remnants as its ship sinks. What an opportunity lost.”

The beleaguered party and its leadership have been fighting internal dissent and turmoil since its electoral losses in Punjab and Goa. A string of losses, thereafter, intensified a demand for “introspection” instead of “blaming the EVMs” but even as Kejriwal had tried shifting the focus to a “course correction”, internal differences spilled out in the public.

As the clamour for a larger role for Vishwas gathered strength, with MLAs Mishra, Alka Lamba, Somnath Bharti among others siding with Vishwas openly, Kejriwal defused the situation by appointing Vishwas as the Rajasthan state incharge.

Though the warring factions seemingly made peace, Mishra went on to level corruption charges against Kejriwal, who has been at the centrestage of the anti-corruption crusade, the very foundation of AAP.

“Most party volunteers and leaders think attempts are being made to bring down Kejriwal and the idea of AAP. This crisis has come as a blessing in disguise — it has united MLAs, leaders and volunteers,” said a close Kejriwal aide. “Not one MLA or volunteer stands by Mishra today. Even those who were questioning the party leadership are now putting up a united front.”

Dwarka MLA Adarsh Shastri, who too had stood by Vishwas recently, tweeted, “Arvind Kejriwal remains India’s only hope for honest politics. He is spotless and I have full faith in him. These allegations cannot scare us.”

Bharti, who had asked Kejriwal to focus on governance in Delhi and hand over the reins of the party’s national expansion, tweeted, “BJP, by the way Kapil Mishra had also called Modi an ISI agent sometime back, get that probed too alongside.”

Lamba, another Vishwas confidante who had come out in support of Mishra on Saturday night after his ouster from the cabinet, backtracked after the allegations levelled by him on Sunday morning. She went on to retweet comments and posts in support of Kejriwal.

Vishwas, who had himself questioned Kejriwal’s handling of the party’s affairs last week, came out in his defense on Sunday morning and maintained, “Even Arvind’s worst political rivals cannot imagine that he will take a bribe. I have known him for 12 years and cannot believe that he will ever take a bribe.”

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