Opportunist Versus Opportunist
That the coterie of the chief minister would win this round was a foregone conclusion. But this is not the end of the Aam Aami Party’s woes. Kejriwal must brace for a ‘me-too aam aadmi’ breakaway group, litigations from Bhushan and stories planted in the media by Yadav.
The inevitable has happened. Arvind Kejriwal realised Yogendra Yadav’s clout with the establishment and Prashant Bhushan’s fame as a crusader against corruption were past their sell-by date. He had embraced Yadav to fill his party’s intellectual vacuum on top. Then he tolerated his ‘anti-party activities’ because the Delhi elections were knocking at the door and a split in the party would send wrong signals to potential voters. Kejriwal lived with Bhushan and his father Shanti’s tantrums — which included sneaking Shalini Gupta in to foment trouble in the party — as they helped him build momentum for the Jan Lokpal movement [The 89-year old lawyer had presented to Indira Gandhi the draft in 1967, which even the socialist prime minister had found too draconian to accept; ever since, the ‘Bill’ has been Bhushan Sr’s pet project].
The momentum was built on a series of meetings in 2010 organised by Bhushan Jr of Delhi’s seminar circuit. And Yadav, once Rahul Gandhi’s adviser and one of several Ford Foundation beneficiaries, had crossed over perhaps to mitigate the disaster the Aam Aadmi Party would heap on the Congress. Now that it has been proved that voters, especially of Delhi, do not care for ideology, and that his seat in the chief minister’s office is secured for five years, thanks to an overwhelming 67 out of 70 seats in the Vidhan Sabha, Kejriwal needs neither Yadav nor Bhushan.
In February, Prashant Bhushan dropped a letter bomb. Either he leaked it to the media or the party high command that had had enough of him made it public to pass him off as a renegade.
If the party ‘supremo’ tried to douse the fire with LK Advani-style absentia, the stratagem never works. He had made it clear before leaving for Bangalore to get his chronic cough treated by naturopathy that the rebels could not be tolerated any more. On his return, he made a sycophant in the national council release a purported conversation between his coterie and him to project a reconciliatory image of his own.
The alleged conversation showed Kejriwal trying to convince his coterie that the internal disputes in the party were not helping anybody. It finally ends with the chief asking Kumar Vishwas to try to build bridges with the insubordinate lot.
But the communiqué in the WhatsApp group of national council members melted no ice. The members overwhelmingly rejected it as a public relations exercise. By then, Sanjay Singh had reached out to several state unit heads for their support in today’s meeting. In the meantime, all that the disgruntled faction did was vent its anger on social media.
Kejriwal’s purported conversation with his coterie that was dismissed as a PR exercise by NC members (Click to enlarge)
Readers of Swarajya know how both Yadav and Bhushan had been enjoying the fruits of lack of democracy in the AAP until the tide turned against them. If today’s national council meeting — where the duo, along with their faction’s negotiators Prof Anand Kumar and Ajit Jha, were ousted from the national executive — was conducted unfairly, the constitution of the party on 24 November 2012 at the Constitution Club and a reluctantly held meeting on 31 January 2014 were no less unfair. And in those meetings, the unfairness was engineered by the duo. You can be a happy cheerleader of the party; the day you make an ideological point and seek an intervention in the party’s decision making process, you will be condemned as a gaddar (traitor). Lesser mortals of the national council have been thus declared “traitors” one by one for the past two years. Today was the turn of Yadav and Bhushan. Karma haunts!
I asked the WhatsApp group members why they tolerated assaults on democracy since the party’s inception day. They said they were always against the backroom parleys. I asked whether their opinion changed anything in the party. The group that used to send to my mobile phone about 300 notifications a day kept silent in response for almost half a day!
But make no mistake. The five demands the ousted leaders had made might have been ideological for Bhushan; it was not so for Yadav. After the latter’s bid to emerge as a national hero was snubbed on 30 October 2012 at the end of a crucial policy meet, he wanted to be declared the party’s chief ministerial candidate for Haryana. This time, he tried to turn into a poster boy in Haryana.
Yadav had been demanding he be allowed to turn famous since the inception of the party.
This fourth demand, out of the five linked above, was granted. On the first three, Kejriwal’s camp either bought time or lied in the name of assurance. So that it is not taken to task, the party’s internal Lokpal Admiral L Ramdas was not allowed to enter the venue of the meeting today.
The fifth demand was ironical: Yadav who had, on the foundation day, pushed his lackeys into the party and asked national council members to raise hands if they objected to anybody’s candidacy, was now asking for voting through the secret ballot!
There is nothing wrong in trying to expand the party across the country. But the former psephologist and political ‘scientist’ never objected when the AAP’s Madhya Pradesh unit got ready to fight elections much before the Delhi unit did, but were not allowed to throw a challenge at Shivraj Singh Chouhan government’s re-election in 2013.
Both the factions in this feud were found ethically wanting. Why did Kejriwal not allow the unit that was first off the starting block to fight elections in its state? Because he is not interested in success in polls where he is not the mascot that can take away all the credit. Why did Yadav not protest then? Because Madhya Pradesh did not concern him.
Why is Yadav protesting now? Because Haryana is his base. But didn’t Kejriwal agree Yadav could go ahead, raising the party in that state? He did, but that was hardly Yadav’s motive. Yogendra alias Salim had tested Haryana’s waters during the Lok Sabha elections. The rugged terrains of the northern state offer no cakewalk like television studios handled by friendly anchors. The crowds at his ‘rallies’ were a joke. The above set of demands was nothing but a tool to needle the party’s national convener, whose seat he was eyeing, and for which he was firing shots from Shanti Bhushan’s shoulders.
Remember, Yadav was not the lone failure in the Lok Sabha elections. More than 400 of the AAP’s candidates had lost, and the list of losers included Medha Patkar — she has resigned from the party today in a show of solidarity with Yadav and Bhushan — a big name in activism. So, in terms of pragmatism, if not for the selfish motive to always grab credit, Kejriwal has not been entirely wrong. He is the sole crowd puller and vote catcher in the party. In other places, the AAP can only lose elections and, consequently, its brand value. The 2013 Assembly election was a different ball game, as the Narendra Modi ‘wave’ had yet not set in. And people’s hopes on an alternative party were on the rise.
As for the larger picture, political observers with good memory are not amused. Infighting right after tasting power has been endemic to socialists. The world came to know of Charan Singh’s rebellion in the Morarji Desai government much later. Former Janata Party insiders — two of whom I accidentally met with yesterday — say Jagjivan Ram was a frustrated man right on the day the ragtag coalition was celebrating its victory in the 1977 election. When the likes of George Fernandes were celebrating their electoral victory at Rajghat, ‘Babuji’ was venting his anger on pieces of furniture in his house.
George Fernandes at Rajghat celebrating yet to be formed Janata Party’s victory in the 1977 general elections.
No one has lived this irony more than Prof Anand Kumar, related to Raj Narain and a veteran who has dealt with Chandrashekhar, Karpoori Thakur, Rabi Ray, Madhu Dandavate, Madhu Limaye, Arjun Singh Bhadoria, Kishan Patnaik, Ram Dhan, Krishnakant, Janeshwar Mishra, Brajbhushan Tiwari and Mohan Singh. Yadav has at best learnt about them from newspaper archives. But the die-hard dreamers of a socialist utopia have never taken lessons from history. Those in Delhi will keep meeting in forlorn buildings on Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, Deen Dayal Upadhyay Marg and in Delhi University campus and sundry seminar venues to forge together another movement some day in the future. Yes, with all his limitations, Yadav will test his own electoral prowess after cooling his heels in television studios and intellectual seminars for a certain period.
One cannot write off Yadav’s adventurism in planting stories in the media and Bhushan’s litigious proclivity. From now on we should expect sudden media outrage at things happening in the AAP. That Bhushan will challenge Kejriwal’s ‘violation’ of the party constitution is a given. Never mind that the party had been violating its constitution since the day it was formed, which was fine by him till last year.
In the ruling camp, because of the unseated leaders externally or fight over resources internally, there is much drama in store in the coming years. Don’t be surprised if Kejriwal goes VP Singh’s way in case some development leads to a division between his 67 MLAs. If Singh brought in the Mandal Commission to pre-empt Devi Lal’s shenanigans, Kejriwal has fiddled with both casteism and communalism and he can play either card or both to save his reign.
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