Internal strife and factionalism in state unit of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) have come out in the open just ahead of the Lok Sabha election in Gujarat.
The daggers seem to be drawn within the rank and file of the party’s Gujarat unit. On the one hand are members of the party who have been holding the ‘broom’ high since its formation here, on the other are newer members whom the leadership sees as power-craving opportunists. Irate members, however, say that the state leadership is too paranoid to decentralise responsibility, or in their words, ‘give up the satta bestowed on them’. That seems quite a ‘mouthful’ of teething troubles for a party formed just 16 months ago.
Sources close to the development said that even the party’s central leadership in Delhi had been apprised of the ground realities in Gujarat. But they are maintaining a status quo because of the Lok Sabha polls.
Thorns amid bristles
Speaking on recent issues, including candidates backing out after announcing their candidature, former members alleging corruption and communalism and disagreements over selection of candidates, AAP media co-ordinator Harshil Nayak attributed it to being a case of sour grapes.
“With over 300 applications for just 26 seats, there is bound be dissatisfaction among those who were eager, but not selected. As for the press conference by former AAP members recently, it was organised by a man against whom there were complaints of causing violence in our office as well as cheating in the name of AAP. However, there is no conflict of ideology amongst the current party members,” Nayak said.
The timing that divides
Despite being the newest entrant on the scene, there is a distinct division in the membership even as perceived by the party’s forebears.
“While the party came into existence on November 26, 2012, there was a larger influx nay flood of members after the result of the Delhi assembly elections on December 8, 2013. In this flood, all kinds of water flowed into the party fold – from crystal clear to murky. Though many of the new entrants have proved valuable, lower level functionaries of the BJP, Congress and others also took it as an opportunity, hopeful of having a bigger impact in our party. Then there’s some old inactive members who are resting easy on their laurels of being founding members,” said state AAP convenor Sukhdev Patel.
According to him, as many as 90% of the 300-odd people who had applied for candidature in the LS polls were part of the newer group of AAP members. He also said that that such people who had joined the party with their own agenda of ‘nexus-driving’ would be parting ways as quickly as they had picked up the metaphorical broom, after the December 8, 2013 results.
“We will culture their tastes to match the party line, but I won’t be surprised to see the state unit of AAP undergo a ‘purification process’ to get rid of the ‘impurities’ after the election is over,” Patel said, while Nayak affirmed this, saying “We will wait and watch; if there is any kachro (garbage) in the party fold, it will be cleaned out.”
The one thing both are sure of is that there would be no compromise over core values of the party.
Meanwhile, AAP state secretary, Sanjeev Srivastava attributed it to being nothing more than teething troubles for the new party. “We have hardly had any time to define the functions, cadres and system that other well-established parties in the country have formed over many years. With diverse backgrounds, the various members are bound to have disagreements,” he explained.
Greener grass or political crass?
For all the efforts that AAP makes towards establishing itself as a viable alternative here, the gloves are coming off within its state organisation rather quickly. Some serious allegations have been levelled against the party’s state leadership, by members who claim that majority of the party’s workforce agrees with them. If sources are to be believed, the phenomenon gained momentum around two months ago.
“Over 2,300 emails have been sent to Delhi regarding irregularities with AAP’s state leadership. As many as hundred workers from various districts of the state had even represented their case in Delhi with documentary evidence and even Arvind Kejriwal is aware of this,” informed a party insider.
“Even when powers of AAP’s state and district bodies were seized and a new Gujarat Election Campaign Commitee (GECC) was formed two months ago, only members close to AAP’s old guard including the top four state leaders were chosen for it. When one leader had a fundamental disagreement with the GECC’s functioning, he opted to resign from it,” the source added.
The leader who quit the GECC is none other than Srivastava. When asked about the same, he said, “Among the basic fundamentals set by Arvind Kejriwal and the AAP team was that each member should hold only post in the party. Hence, I offered to resign from the GECC and do justice to my constitutional post of state secretary. There are six other state committee members in the GECC, who may have felt otherwise.”
Sources also claimed that talks within the membership are rife about some AAP leaders being aligned with the BJP or RSS for selfish gains.
“They are deliberately slowing down the progress of our committee under orders from their political masters in other parties. Hence, they are afraid to let go of the power bestowed on them, knowing that they will stand exposed in such a scenario,” said another member on condition of anonymity.
If that be the case, why not replace the state leadership? “You don’t just replace the team captain during an ongoing match. That would not bode too well for AAP as a whole during the ongoing election, nor would it revive the morale. But our central leadership has assured that a part of the senior ranks will be shaken up after May 16,” the source claimed.