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Are Kejriwal Bhakts destroying the Aam Aadmi Party?

The controversy around the ‘anti-Kejriwal’ activities of Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav has created unrest among the volunteers, with many, if not most of them, unhappy with the ‘humiliation’ of the leaders.

“The way things are happening shows immaturity on your part,” said volunteer Sanjay Singh in a comment posted on the Aam Aadmi Party website.

“People are losing faith in AAP as a party due to all this. So please come out with a solution which is acceptable to common like me who has argued with several people to convince them that AAP is the hope for people of India and has shared some hard earned money for this cause.So why not make the discussion among you as public so that we are convinced that you have done the right thing.

“Transparency ,swaraj and democratic methods are the three most important pillar on which this party has been able to capture the imagination of people.If this is gone nothing will be left and again we will have to tolerate the old corrupt parties.You people are great and sacrificed a lot for the country but can’t you resolve your dispute in harmonious manner.Are PB,YY are such a rot that they need to be expelled from the PAC. In the past they have been asset for AAP. Suddenly so much venom against them. I would request you people to come on a common platform and work for the evolution of our country from egoistic mindset to logical one.”

aap

A deeper analysis also reveals that the trend of kicking out leaders who do not subject themselves to the cult of personality worship bodes ill for the fledgling party. The developments also clearly reveal that the Aam Aadmi Party’s top leaders have got divided into Kejriwal ‘bhakts’ and non Kejriwal bhakts, and that these two groups are now fighting.

In other words, while one group wants absolute dedication and loyalty to Kejriwal from AAP leaders, there seem to be some who are unwilling to offer that level of commitment to a single person, and prefer to put ideals above personalities. Senior leaders Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan stand accused of trying to “tarnish the image” of party’s national convener Arvind Kejriwal.

Volunteers, who are the biggest asset for the party, have poured out their feelings under a letter written by a group of leaders who have accused Bhushan and Yadav of trying to lower the image of Kejriwal to further their own ambitions.

The most ‘upvoted’ comment calls on the party leadership to change course and not ‘humiliate’ Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan. Instead, says the comment by Sanjeev Haridwar, please consider them “as valuable.”

“There will be instances where difference of opinion will be there,That does not mean that Any boby is against any body.We should convince the people rather than to defame him.That is my point,” he added.

The second most upvoted commented too took a similar line. “My humble request to AAP that you should not loose the gems like Yogendra Ji and Prashant Ji…. they also have huge contribution in making the party……. This is the party in which common man like us believe the most in todays scenario,” said Sarvesh Sharma.

The four leaders who wrote the letter, Manish Sisodhia, Gopal Rai, Pankaj Gupta and Sanjay Singh, gave a list of alleged wrongdoings by Bhushan and Yadav in their letter, intended primarily at volunteers.

They gave eight points against the two leaders, out of which only one related to Yogendra Yadav and the others seven were against Prashant Bhushan.

Broadly, these leaders alleged that Prashant Bhushan did not campaign for the party in the just concluded Delhi elections, urged some people he knew inside the party not to campaign and told some leaders within AAP that a defeat was required to bring Arvind Kejirwal ‘back to the ground’. In other words, from these reported ‘transgressions’, it looks like Prashant Bhushan was afraid that Kejriwal was turning autocratic.

Another commenter noted: “If they really wanted AAP to be defeated, why go in media and put up a positive, principled argument supporting AAP — always. Specially, I found Mr. Yogendra Yadav’s TV debates very impressive in the election phase. Even now, he has been only talking positive things about AAP… It was Shanti Bhusan who went against AK. But you fired Prashant Bhushan and not him. Why?”

YOGENDRA YADAV

As far as Yogendra Yadav is concerned, the leaders made only one allegation – that in off-the-record chats with certain editors, Yogendra Yadav tried to tarnish the image of Kejriwal and got newspapers to carry negative articles about Kejriwal.

As an example, the four leaders referred to the controversy over an articled published by the Hindu in August last year.

In the article, titled Fading promise of the Indian spring, journalist Chander Suta Dogra said the decision of not contesting Haryana state elections was done in an undemocratic manner.

When Arvind Kejriwal’s office called up Dogra to find out why she wrote so, she said Yadav had told her so at an unofficial press meet at Chandigarh on Aug 15.

She later wrote: “The day the article appeared, I got a call from someone who identified himself as “Bibhav” from Arvind Kejriwal’s office in Delhi. (This was Bibhav Kumar, now PS to the Delhi CM). He told me what I had written about the NEC meeting was incorrect.

“I responded that this information had been shared with me and four other journalists by Yadav, and added that there was no reason for me to doubt his version, which had been given to us in front of several AAP workers.”

This conversation was recorded by the AAP functionary who made the call, and was used to confront Yadav. This is also the evidence that is being used by the four leaders to accused Yadav of anti-party activities. To corroborate, the four also said that other journalists, whom they did not name, also told them that Yadav has been critical of Kejriwal in his informal chats with them.

The four leaders, in their ‘open letter’, pointed out that the journalist of the Hindu article herself had pointed to Yadav as the source of the information that the Haryana decision was against the consensus.

However, the journalist’s account of the conversation with Yadav has since been contradicted by that of another journalist who was also present at the occasion.

“I was one of the journalists at that breakfast table, and in the ethical tradition of making full disclosures, must underline that while the aloo parathas were delicious, if Yadav did indeed give out the juicy tidbits mentioned in Ms Dogra’s story, that plate did not make it to the breakfast table where we were seated. Intriguingly, there was only one table,” said journalist SP Singh in his account.

SP Singh also claimed that his version of what transpired was also agreed to by “a very senior and respected colleague at a national news daily who was also present at the breakfast which was referred to in Ms Dogra’s story.”

PRASHANT BHUSHAN

The second person against whom accusations of anti-Kejriwal activities have been made is Prashant Bhushan.

If the allegations are right, they merely prove that Bhushan chafed under Arvind Kejriwal’s leadership style. Perhaps Bhushan, who was one of the original founders of the India Against Corruption movement, felt that Kejriwal had centralized too much decision making around himself.

Accusations like those made in the letter — a defeat in the Delhi elections would bring Kejriwal back to the ground — seems to indicate that Bhushan felt Kejriwal’s leadership style was unhealthy and against the spirit of the movement.

To some extent, both leaders are at fault here. When an informal movement takes the shape of a formal organization, hierarchies are put in place. People who used to fight side by side may find themselves one below the other.

That is the nature of organization, and hierarchies are required for smooth decision making.

On the other side, as a leader, it was incumbent upon Kejriwal to show sensitivity and magnanimity to his former colleagues and present party members, irrespective of their status within the organization. While there are limits to how much accommodation a leader like Kejriwal can show to other senior leaders, letting ‘bhakts’ have a go at them is certainly no way out.

There are two types of people – those who follow leaders and those who follow ideals. Bhushan is clearly of the second type. He would feel uncomfortable in a very personality-focused organization.

In fact, many volunteers would too. Personality-focused organizations — like the AIADMK in Tamil Nadu and Bahujan Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh — are not able to attract young, idealistic volunteers from the middle classes. These volunteers, who form the life-blood of the AAP, especially outside Delhi, respond more to the idea that AAP embodies – a corruption-free, liberal and developed India. Kejriwal, to the majority of volunteers outside Delhi, is merely an instrument to achieve that.

While it served the AAP well to project Kejriwal as the infallible leader to attract votes, especially from low-income groups, the party needs to recognize the contribution of the idealistic volunteers. They are the ones who build parties. They are muscles and bones of the party.

To think that personality can be placed above ideals, and to give into the Indian trait of sycophancy, would be suicidal to a young party like the AAP.
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