AAP GETS A SINK­ING FEEL­ING

India Today - - IN­SIDE - By Shougat Das­gupta

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.

QA­MAR SIB­TAIN

IM­PLO­SION TIME? Ke­jri­wal and Siso­dia at a press brief­ing

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