HOURS AFTER the hysteria settled following a thumping victory for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) as they bagged 67 out of 70 seats in the Delhi Assembly polls on February 10, 2015, an ecstatic Arvind Kejriwal ordered a huge cake to celebrate friend and party colleague Kumar Vishwas’s birthday at his residence. Amid a big gathering of the top party leadership and volunteers, Kejriwal cheered him on as Vishwas dug into the cake.
Exactly a year later, Kejriwal was preparing to leave for an elaborate birthday bash hosted by Vishwas in Chanakyapuri when some of his MLAs tipped him off about BJP leaders Om Mathur, Vijay Goel, Vijender Gupta, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and then Delhi Police Commissioner B S Bassi being present at the party. Kejriwal gave it a miss.
Since the AAP government was formed in 2015 — as the party leadership became more streamlined and well-defined — Vishwas increasingly found himself left out of a central role. As the ‘neglect’ grew, time and again, the poet-turned-politician tried to make himself heard, if not within the party, then on public platforms. His comments that the AAP is against caste-based reservations and that the party wants reservations only for the economically backward classes, in Ahmedabad early last year, backfired as it went against the party line, especially when Kejriwal was crusading for Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula in Hyderabad.
Days later, as Kejriwal was heckled by a section of the crowd during a rally demanding justice for Vemula at Jantar Mantar, party spokesperson Sanjay Singh had to step in to clarify that those were “Vishwas’s personal views and not the party’s stand”. Vishwas’s proximity to some BJP leaders, his comments which were pitched as his “independent voice” by his supporters, has since reportedly rankled the party leadership.
More recently — when Vishwas released a 13-minute video titled ‘We, the Nation’, where he spoke on the recent violence in Kashmir during the Srinagar bypolls and made a veiled attack on Kejriwal and the AAP government — the party avoided public criticism. Kejriwal, retweeted the video, praising it. “Just because he criticises the party in public doesn’t make him a hero. There are others, who discuss issues on the right platform, within closed doors. That is discipline,” said a senior leader.