AAP GETS A SINKING FEELING
The crisis in AAP is manna for the BJP, bent as it is on taking back Delhi
Kumar Vishwas, a co-founder of AAP, is staying within the fold after it appeared inevitable that he would be cast out for criticising Arvind Kejriwal. Vishwas—a charismatic figure with a piquant turn of phrase, confined to the periphery of the party in part because he was thought to harbour BJP-RSS sympathies—had alleged internal corruption in a video released after AAP’s election defeats. One AAP MLA, Amanatullah Khan, even publicly accused Vishwas of wanting to break up the party. Khan has resigned from AAP’s political action committee as a result, but is sticking by his words. He has since been suspended from the party as Kejriwal and Delhi’s’deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia, desperate to give the party a fillip, kept Vishwas onside. He will also now lead the party’s Rajasthan poll effort.
It’s a sign of self-belief that AAP is planning for elections due towards the end of 2018 because, as of now, the party is listing heavily. All hands have been engaged in plugging old leaks while new ones sprout elsewhere. It is a Sisyphean task; the good ship AAP appears to be doomed. It’s only a matter of time. Or so the opposition would have you believe. Of course, in the wake of three chastening defeats in swift succession, much of that opposition is also coming from within the party, as factions form and mutinous whispers are no longer hushed.
Ashutosh, rumoured to be in the thick of the internecine warfare, sounds a weary man on the phone. He plays the role of rational party spokesman, acknowledging mistakes but cautioning against the narrative of collapse. “What we need to do,” he says, “is understand what happened, how and when we lost that connection between the Delhi government, the party, the volunteers, and the people.”
Before the election, in an interview in his sitting room, Sisodia claimed AAP’s volunteers had not been distracted by the campaigns in Punjab and Goa, that subsequent defeat had not damaged morale. But the architects of the Punjab campaign, Sanjay Singh and Durgesh Pathak, have now quit. They were party apparatchiks, promoted, party insiders say, for their loyalty to Kejriwal rather than their ability. They were also, disgruntled volunteers have long alleged, overly pragmatic, corrupt even, and their electoral mathematics crude: wealth equals votes.
The internal strife is manna from heaven for the BJP which, after its comprehensive victory in Delhi’s municipal polls, has made no secret of its desire to unseat the Delhi government. Sudhanshu Mittal, a prominent BJP spokesperson, said, “Delhi’s people have comprehensively rejected Kejriwal and AAP’s governance.”
Kejriwal, Ashutosh says, will speak to each AAP MLA individually, will speak to party members and volunteers, will seek to reconnect with people, will be penitent. He may not find many in the mood to forgive.
IMPLOSION TIME? Kejriwal and Sisodia at a press briefing