As senior AAP leader Kumar Vishwas raised questions over his party’s poll strategies and indicated in TV interviews that he was left out of the Punjab Assembly polls and MCD elections, a section of the core leadership took exception to his statements. This, despite a clamour from some MLAs earlier this week that he be given charge of the party’s expansion, and AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal focus on governance.
On Saturday, several top leaders expressed exasperation at his “out-of-turn” comments and said he should have raised his concerns within “closed doors”. Since Friday, Vishwas has raised concerns over “disconnect with volunteers” and AAP’s decision to “solely blame EVMs”. “During the Punjab elections, I was told, ‘We are winning in Punjab, we do not need you’,” Vishwas told NDTV Saturday. “The same leadership handling Punjab elections was handling MCD elections and I did not have much communication… At a time when everything is read between the lines by the media, especially for a party like AAP, it is best to raise issues after an election is over.”
He also told News 18 that “Kejriwal is surrounded by yes men”. Earlier this week, AAP MP from Sangrur Bhagwant Mann had alleged irregularities in ticket distribution and mismanagement of the Punjab polls. Asked about these allegations, senior AAP leader Sanjay Singh, who stepped down as the Punjab state in-charge, told The Sunday Express, “We are a democratic party and our leaders have a voice of their own. But complaints or suggestions for improvement should be done within closed doors. Yeh parivar ka maamla hai. This is the beauty of AAP — we admit our mistakes.”
Another senior leader claimed, “It has become Vishwas’s habit of bargaining for greater control of the party. His biggest grouse is that candidates recommended by him were not given tickets… There is a system where a 15-member screening committee decides. But he wanted a quota system in ticket distribution.” Vishwas has been visibly distanced from the party for the past year. Top party sources said he was kept away from the Punjab campaign after his comments on Sant Jarnail Singh Khalsa Bhindranwale were met with a backlash from the Sikh community. With negativity simmering, the party asked him to focus on the Goa campaign.
“As for municipal polls, he did not come out to campaign initially. Later, he was reluctant because it would attract negative publicity. He was never left out of PAC meetings and he could have raised his concerns then. There are several other dissenters who have told Kejriwal that it’s not just EVMs that are to be blamed,” a senior leader said. Despite repeated attempts, Vishwas, who abruptly called off several media interviews on Saturday, could not be reached for a comment.