The changes come after Amanatullah Khan accused Kumar Vishwas of colluding with the BJP to split AAP.
The crisis that arose in the Aam Aadmi Party after Okhla MLA Amanatullah Khan accused founder and senior leader Kumar Vishwas of trying to split the party in collusion with the BJP has blown over after the party’s Political Affairs Committee (PAC) decided to suspend Khan’s primary membership and made Vishwas the party in-charge for the upcoming assembly elections in Rajasthan.
Leaving the PAC meeting, which lasted over three hours, Vishwas said “in the last four-five days a process of introspection began in the party” and assured that “whenever course correction is needed, the party leaders would sit together.”
He said no one should be under the impression that he was doing anything to gain power or position. “But some processes were needed and now they have started.”
Emerging from the meeting, Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia while referring to the “kind of atmosphere” created in the past few days, said the PAC had expressed its anger at Khan’s statements about Vishwas and had decided to suspend the former from the party. Sisodia said a committee has been constituted under party national secretary Pankaj Gupta with PAC members Ashutosh and Atishi Marlena to probe the issue.
He also announced the appointment of Vishwas as the party in-charge for the upcoming assembly elections in Rajasthan.
All PAC members in attendance
The PAC meeting was attended by convener and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and senior party leaders Sisodia, Vishwas, Sanjay Singh, Ashutosh, Gopal Rai, Atishi Marlena, MP Sadhu Singh and Durgesh Pathak. Since Okhla MLA Khan had resigned on Monday, May 1, the panel is now down to nine members. Party national treasurer Raghav Chadha and national secretary Gupta were also present as ex-officio members.
Vishwas is learnt to have raised three major issues in the meeting – that there should be no compromise on corruption, on nationalism and that the party workers should be heard and their grievances addressed.
How it all began
The meeting put to an end the speculation around the poet-writer-politician’s future in the party in the wake of his video titled ‘We the nation: Bold and straightforward.’ In the video, Vishwas had attacked the party for being soft on issues related to nationalism and speaking against the army.
But problems for Vishwas compounded soon after he gave a television interview on April 28 in which he attacked the party leadership for various decisions and called for ‘radical reforms’. Among other things, Vishwas countered the party’s claim that it lost because of EVM tampering, saying, “People did not vote for us in enough number. There is mistrust among the people for us.” He said the party also failed to reach out to the voters and volunteers.
Vishwas was also critical of Kejriwal’s stand on surgical strike and stated that he “should not have attacked the prime minister over surgical strike”.
He also noted that “ticket distribution was wrong” for the Punjab assembly polls and that led to the loss. As for the loss in the MCD elections held on April 23, he had said, “This is our sixth defeat because we were disconnected with volunteers.”
Vishwas had also called for structural changes in the party saying; “Party needs to change. Instead of blaming others, we must introspect the reasons for loss.” But he appeared to have crossed the line, when to a question on whether there was a need for change the leadership, he said, “We will discuss this in the party soon.”
Okhla MLA accuses Vishwas of trying to split AAP
A day later on April 30, Khan accused Vishwas of trying to doctor a split in the AAP at the behest of BJP.
Levelling serious allegations, he charged that Kumar had even offered Rs 30 crores each to some legislators to join the BJP. Khan also circulated a WhatsApp message purportedly sent by Vishwas to invite some AAP MLAs to his home and said four MLAs and a minister were in touch with him. “Kumar Vishwas called some MLAs and asked them that he should be made the party convenor,” Khan claimed, adding that “Vishwas wants to usurp and break the AAP”.
The same day Vishwas retweeted Kejriwal’s tweet in which the latter had described him as a brother and noted that some people were trying to create a rift between them.
कुमार मेरा छोटा भाई है। कुछ लोग हमारे बीच दरार दिखा रहे हैं,ऐसे लोग पार्टी के दुश्मन हैं !वो बाज़ आयें। हमें कोई अलग नहीं कर सकता
— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) April 30, 2017
He also retweeted a tweet in which Sanjay supported his claim that the main cause for the defeat in elections was not EVM manipulation.
— AAP In News (@AAPInNews) April 30, 2017
But the issue did not settle there and the week began with more intrigue.
Vishwas skips PAC meeting, Khan resigns
On Monday, May 1, Vishwas did not attend the PAC meeting in protest and Khan resigned from the panel. But while coming out of the PAC meeting, Khan reiterated his allegations against Vishwas saying, “I stand by what I said about Vishwas. He is working at the behest of the BJP and RSS.”
With the public spat coming at a time when the party is going through an unprecedented crisis, Sisodia directed all MLAs and workers not to give “public statements”. “We need to have trust in the party. If there is any issue, talk to Arvind Kejriwal,” he said.
While Khan’s ouster from PAC did signal Kejriwal’s displeasure at his levelling allegations against Vishwas in the open, the latter found the reiteration of charges by Khan to be indicative of a larger conspiracy against him. He therefore demanded that Khan be sacked from the party.
War of words between Vishwas and Sisodia
This saw a bitter war of words between Vishwas and Sisodia on Tuesday, May 2, when Vishwas claimed that the first-time MLA was a mere “mukhota” (mask) hiding a larger sinister design.
“Had Amanatullah Khan said anything like this against Arvind or Manish, he would have been shown the door in ten minutes,” Vishwas said, while speaking before the media. Stating that he would not be bogged down by any gag order, Vishwas said, “I will speak out whenever required”.
He also refused to apologise for a video he had released earlier in April in the wake of the attack by some protesters on security personnel escorting a polling party in Kashmir. In the video he had issued a veiled criticism of Kejriwal for the way he had opposed the army operations in the past.
But in a greater commentary on who he was and how he was not after power, Vishwas, who had contested against Rahul Gandhi from Amethi in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, said: “I have conveyed this to Arvind, Manish [Sisodia] and I reiterate it today that I don’t want to become chief minister, deputy chief minister or AAP’s national convener.” He said he was not after any political or government post.
He also denied any plans to join any other political party, including Swaraj India, which had been floated by founders of AAP, Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan, after they had been unceremoniously removed from the party in early 2015.
Immediately, Sisodia countered his charge saying, “Volunteers understand who Kumar Vishwas is helping by airing his grievances through media.” He said if Vishwas has a problem with the party, he should raise the issue in the party forum. Sisodia also accused Vishwas of making it a “personal fight”.
BJP adds grist to the rumour mill
But while Sisodia only indicated that Vishwas was playing into the hands of BJP, what kept the rumour mills churning were statements by some senior BJP leaders. Delhi unit chief Manoj Tiwari spoke about how Vishwas has spoken like a nationalist in the past while Kejriwal was known for his anti-army and pro-separatist utterances. His predecessor Satish Upadhyay told the media that he was in touch with Vishwas, while party MLA O.P. Sharma declared that Delhi could witness fresh assembly elections in a year’s time.
AAP leaders reach out to ‘hurt’ Vishwas
Though several senior AAP leaders, including minister Kapil Mishra, met him earlier in the day, followed by Ashutosh and Sanjay in the evening, Kejriwal along with Sisodia went to his residence at night to assuage his hurt feeling. Vishwas, however, remained adamant that Khan be sacked from the party.
Emerging from the meeting, Kejriwal said, “Vishwas is upset, but I am sure we will convince him. He is an integral part of our movement.” Later Kejriwal also took Vishwas to his home to discuss the issue further and the meetings are learnt to have continued till three in the morning. But Vishwas, who appeared glum, declared that he would take a “decision” on his future later and at 11 this morning he attended the PAC meeting.