After being denied a seat in Parliament, senior AAP leader Kumar Vishwas finds that he is being increasingly isolated in the party, with its top brass turning a deaf ear to his plans for an electoral campaign in Rajasthan.
A member of the Aam Aadmi Party said Vishwas, party in-charge for Rajasthan, had stopped campaigning in the state because of “lack of support” from the leadership. There had been no response from the party leadership to Vishwas’s demand that a bank account be opened to deposit donation money for the polls and for MLAs to campaign in the state, he said. “Why will people trust Kumar bhai if the central leadership doesn’t support him,” the member asked.
The incidents reflect the growing isolation of the leader, who is a part of the all-powerful Political Affairs Committee of the party and an AAP spokesperson, but largely out of the decision-making process. AAP had put him in charge last year of the state which goes to the polls later this year. The camp led by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal no longer trusts Vishwas, said a leader close to the AAP chief, alleging that the rebel leader had sought to engineer a “coup” in the outfit. “He has indulged in acts which can only be dubbed anti-party. He had got far more leeway because of being a senior founder member. But it may not be the case any more,” the leader added.
The poet-politician had a close bond of friendship once with Kejriwal and Deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia. If Kejriwal took on Modi from Varanasi, Vishwas contested against Congress president Rahul Gandhi from Amethi. Such was the weight of Vishwas in the party that he even tried to broker peace with founder members Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan after they questioned the AAP chief’s style of working.
But that relations between Kejriwal and Vishwas were no longer warm became apparent last year when Vishwas was kept away from campaigning in Punjab.
There were indirect attacks on each other. But what riled the top brass was the scathing criticism by Vishwas of the AAP leadership over the party’s poor performance in Punjab. The cold war intensified after Vishwas, in a video, attacked the AAP government in Delhi over corruption ahead of the MCD polls last year. The party was trounced in the elections, which made matters worse.
Vishwas had almost quit the party after Okhla MLA Amanatullah Khan called him a BJP-RSS agent but was persuaded to stay back after Khan was suspended from the party. However, the theory that Vishwas had attempted a “coup” for a leadership change widened the crevices of mistrust to such an extent that a patch-up seemed next to impossible, said the AAP leader close to Kejriwal. The party also did not consider Vishwas, known for his oratorical skills, for a Rajya Sabha seat. But AAP watchers are keeping an eye on Vishwas to see what his next move would be. Sources close to Vishwas said he would not quit the party but wait for the leadership to take action against him.
At a function to mark AAP’s fifth anniversary late last year, Vishwas had taken a jibe at his detractors and likened himself to Abhimanyu, the warrior son of Arjun in the Mahabharat, saying that he would be victorious even in death. Sources close to Kejriwal have ruled out any action in the near future that will make Vishwas a “martyr”. It also wants to avoid any bloodshed before state polls and the Lok Sabha elections. Both sides are waiting to see who will blink first.