The rift in the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leadership appeared to widen on Tuesday with four senior party leaders — Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, Transport Minister Gopal Rai, Sanjay Singh and Pankaj Gupta — writing an “official” letter accusing Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav of working against the party in the run-up to the Delhi elections.
After Bhushan and Yadav were removed from the party’s Political Affairs Committee (PAC) on March 4, top leaders of the party have engaged in a heated exchange in public over the past week. Sources told The Indian Express that with no sign of reconciliation in sight, it is likely that a resolution to remove Bhushan and Yadav from the party’s National Executive may be moved at a National Council meeting on March 28.
In a letter uploaded on the AAP website, the four leaders, all of whom are part of the National Executive that voted Bhushan and Yadav out of PAC, said they were forced to write the letter because “an environment was being created in the media that the decision of the National Executive was undemocratic and irresponsible and volunteers were asking what were the reasons for removing them”.
Detailing eight charges, the letter begins with a preface: “While all the volunteers of the party were giving their all to make the party win (in Delhi), three big leaders were making their best efforts so the party would lose. These three leaders are Prashant Bhushan, Yogendra Yadav and Shanti Bhushan.”
It says, “Prashant Bhushan called up volunteers of other states and told them that he was not campaigning in Delhi, and they must not too. Only this would teach Arvind Kejriwal a lesson. This is evidenced by Anjali Damania as volunteers of Mysore were told this by Bhushan in her presence.” It alleges that Bhushan prevented people from donating to the party and when Ashish Khetan asked him to preside over the Delhi Dialogue on Lokpal and Swaraj, he said that far from campaigning, he wanted the party to lose in Delhi. “He said that he was trying that the party not get more than 20-22 seats, only then was a change in leadership possible,” it says.
It also alleges that Bhushan repeatedly threatened to hold a press conference to “destroy the party” before the elections, and that party workers were constantly sent to the Bhushans to prevent them from saying something out of turn to the media.
Targeting Yadav, the letter says, “There is lot of evidence to suggest that Yogendra Yadav was working to spoil Arvind Kejriwal’s image. The biggest example of this is that in August 2014 when an article in the Hindu presented a negative image of the party and Arvind. The journalist that wrote the story, she revealed that Yadav planted the story. Private conversations with big journalists have also revealed that Yadav held off the record conversations to malign Arvind.”
Reacting to the letter, both Yadav and Bhushan said the “truth would soon come out”.
“We have not come to make another political party, which is just a machine of winning elections by any means. I think, the time has now come for the country to know the whole truth about this matter. Very soon, they will know the whole truth. It is good that those things that were being said through other people with the kind of innuendos and allegations that were being made are now being made by frontline leaders of the party,” Bhushan said.
Yadav alleged that Delhi MLAs were being forced to sign a letter against him and Bhushan. “They should not put pressure on members to speak out against us or force Delhi MLAs to sign papers against us. Hope this statement ends all slander, planting of allegations. Hope no more coercion of party functionaries and Delhi MLAs on this issue,” he said.
“I also hope that Prashant Bhushan and my response will also be duly publicised by the party media. Hope party’s website will be opened for all volunteers’ responses. In this case since the Lokpal has already written a letter expressing his intent to investigate so let him do that. Truth shall prevail,” he said.
Sources in the party said that with the acrimony between the two sides growing, it was possible that a resolution to remove the two leaders from the National Executive could be brought up at the National Council. “Both sides have taken to the public domain to put up their versions because there are over 300 members in the National Council and if a resolution is brought up, opinion on favour of them has to be mobilised. The public outbursts are likely to continue,” a senior leader said.
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