Delhi’s ruling AAP today desperately sought to avert a major internal crisis after it punished the party’s popular Muslim face Amanatullah Khan for speaking against senior colleague, Kumar Vishwas.
While Khan was suspended from the party, the AAP formed a three-member committe to probe his allegations made against Vishwas. As for the poet-politician, the party convinced him to not quit AAP and made him in-charge of Rajasthan affairs.
The decision to suspend Khan from the party’s primary membership was taken by the AAP’s Political Affairs Committee (PAC) after an over three-hour-long meeting, a day after Vishwas had threatened to quit the party if stern action was not taken against Khan, an MLA from Okhla.
Khan too was a member of the PAC, but he had resigned from the party’s highest decision making body on Tuesday in light of raging controversy over his remarks that Vishwas was a BJP agent.
Besides accusing Vishwas of plotting a coup in the party, Khan had also alleged that he was an “RSS-BJP agent”.
Amid growing demand from a section of MLAs for a greater role for Vishwas in the organisation, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said the PAC has entrusted him with the responsibility of Rajasthan which goes to polls by the end of 2018.
After Vishwas’ threat to quit the AAP yesterday, Kejriwal and Sisodia had visited his Ghaziabad residence to pacify him late in the night.
“The AAP family is united. Congratulations to all volunteers,” senior AAP leader Sanjay Singh said after the meeting at Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s residence. The tweet was rewteeted by Kejriwal.
Vishwas for his part spoke of the need to ensure that the AAP, which was battered by a string of poll defeats in the recent months, remained united.
“On behalf of the party, I wish to assure the volunteers and office-bearers that whenever a need arises for a course correction in the party, we will sit together despite our agreements and disagreements.
“No one should have a notion that it is a battle for one-upmanship,” Vishwas told reporters, adding he harboured no ambition to become the AAP convenor, chief minister or deputy chief minister.
He said some consultations that should have earlier taken place were now happening.
“I also thank volunteers for standing with me during this testing time,” Vishwas added.
As the PAC meeting was on inside Kejriwal’s residence, the mood outside was pensive and tense as volunteers gathered with a hope that differences between senior party leaders will be sorted.
As Vishwas emerged outside Kejriwal’s residence and hinted that all is well within the party, volunteers cheered and raised slogans.
Vishwas had differed with Kejriwal on the issue of electronic voting machines (EVMs). He had refused to attribute the AAP’s recent poll upsets to alleged manipulation of voting machines and had instead laid stress on the need to introspect.
He had also referred to the “communication gap” between the party leadership and volunteers.
Sisodia said the PAC has formed a three-member committee comprising the party’s national secretary Pankaj Gupta, Atishi Marlena and Ashutosh to look into the statements given by Khan.
Reacting to this, Khan said this was the party’s decision, but it was not mandatory for him to present himself before the three-member committee.
Khan, who wrested the Muslim-dominated Okhla constituency in 2015 elections, is a popular minority face in the AAP. Many social media users felt that by punishing Khan for his statement against Vishwas, Kejriwal had sent a negative message to his supporters particularly among Muslims.
In his series of allegations, Khan had referred to the presence of the National Security Advisor, Ajit Doval and former Delhi Police Commissioner, BS Bassi, at Vishwas’s birthday bash as evidence to his closeness with the saffron party.
In 2015 elections, when AAP won a historic mandate, Muslim voters had voted decisively in favour of Kejriwal. However, the recent results of Rajouri Garden assembly bypolls and MCD elections showed that AAP was losing its support base among Muslims.
Today’s development, according to analysts, will serve as a catalyst in pushing Muslims away from AAP.
Meanwhile, neither Vishwas nor Sisodia commented on the “coterie” surrounding Kejriwal which had come under attack from Vishwas yesterday.
Kejriwal, Sisodia, Vishwas, Marlena, Gupta, Sanjay Singh, were present at the PAC. However, Durgesh Pathak was not present at the meeting.
The fissure in the party appeared at a time when the morale of the cadre reached its nadir after the party’s poor performance in Punjab and Goa Assembly polls and its rout in the Rajouri Garden Assembly bypoll and Delhi civic elections — all in a span of less than two months.
The divide almost came to its tipping point yesterday when Vishwas said Khan was just a “mask”, pointing towards a “coterie” surrounding Kejriwal, which was “hatching conspiracy” against him.
Several party MLAs, including a minister, were also seen to be backing Vishwas.
(With PTI inputs)