How AAP became the story of politics, victory and betrayal
Why was Arvind Kejriwal so set on expelling Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan from the party when he knew it could become a public relations disaster?
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"Arvind Kejriwal is liberated by not carrying ideological baggage. That baggage is actually debilitating for people like me. The trouble with theories is that they often block you. It is like walking in Delhi with a map of London and I have been part of other experiments in alternative politics that have failed. The AAP has succeeded because Arvind has a strong intuition about the way to move ahead, he has extraordinary self-belief, principles and the skills to improvise."
This was Yogendra Yadav speaking to me soon after the AAP's incredible win in Delhi, before he was voted out of the AAP's Political Affairs Committee, the party's highest decision-making body. I had met him at a coffee shop in central Delhi, and when, a few days later, all hell broke loose in the party I remembered Yadav's interesting and analytical remarks about Kejriwal.
The two AAP leaders at the centre of the current storm in the party - Yogendra Yadav, who is 51, and Prashant Bhushan, who is 58 - are of a different vintage from some of the youngsters who made the Delhi win possible, but they are not lightweights in any sense. Prashant Bhushan is one of the country's leading public interest lawyers who played a critical role in putting together the details of some of the corruption cases that the IAC and the AAP would take up. Yadav joined Kejriwal a little later than Bhushan, but he is a very well-regarded political scientist and academic, and possibly one of the most recognised psephologists in the country.
Why was Kejriwal so set on expelling the duo from the party when he knew it could become a public relations disaster? At the national council meeting, he outlined the reasons... Briefly, here's what Kejriwal told the national council. He said that after the defeat in the Lok Sabha elections, he heard the security guards of his building mocking him. "Woh ek daur tha jab lag raha tha sab khatam ho gaya hai (That was a time when I felt it was all over)." He then chronicled how the party picked itself up and how Yogendra Yadav, Shanti Bhushan and Prashant Bhushan betrayed them. "Peeth me chura bhoka (They stabbed me in the back)," he said. "We showed the country that the BJP's rath can be stopped. The BJP and the Congress were worried. But their work was done by our own. Saathiyon ne dhoka diya (Our friends betrayed us). Who has benefitted from all this? Modi, BJP and Ambani. I am here to fight the forces of corruption and communalism. I am not here to fight Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav."Capital Conquest; Hachette India; Rs 499.
There was more. He said that for the past year the two had been conspiring against him. "Every party meeting has a fight, they write long letters and leak it to the media, they tell donors not to give to the party, they tell volunteers to stay away. I heard Shanti Bhushan tell the media in the middle of the Delhi election that he rated Kiran Bedi as the best (chief ministerial) candidate, followed by Ajay Maken (of the Congress) and then Arvind Kejriwal. I ask him, why are you here in the Aam Aadmi Party? They attacked my personality, my character, my strategy. Even the BJP and Congress will not say that Kejriwal is beimaan (dishonest), but they have suggested it. Some people say we are not here to win or lose. I say I am here to win. We are here to win and I believe in the politics of victory."
Ouster and after
What are the implications of the ouster of the two founding members? When I interviewed him for this book, Bhushan said, "I had not come to set up just another party with a high command culture like the BSP. I had come to change the nature of politics." Bhushan also said that if they were pushed out of the AAP, then some people associated with people's movements who had joined AAP would also leave.
There is no denying that certain sections of intellectuals who have seen the party as a vehicle for their ideas are very disappointed with the ouster of the two veterans... The aftershocks from the main quake will therefore continue for some time.
(Reprinted with the publisher's permission.)