The fissure in the AAP today widened with senior party leader Kumar Vishwas threatening to quit over the attacks on him by a “coterie” surrounding Arvind Kejriwal. The party fielded Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia to contain the damage who retaliated against Vishwas saying people are aware that his comments would help a “particular party”.
The flurry of developments, a day after Okhla MLA Amanatullah Khan resigned from the party’s Political Affairs Committee over a spat with Vishwas, plunged the poll-battered party into turmoil, almost reminiscent of the 2015 bitter public spat involving Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan.
Amid murmurs that he wants to head the party, poet- turned-politician Vishwas said he harbours no ambitions to become chief minister, deputy chief minister or AAP national convener.
Several MLAs too are in favour of a greater role for Vishwas in the AAP after the party’s poor show in the Punjab Assembly and MCD polls.
They also expressed their displeasure over the “coterie” surrounding Kejriwal, as claimed by Vishwas, but pledged their loyalty towards the Aam Aadmi Party chief.
“I have conveyed this to Arvind, Manish (Sisodia) and I reiterate it today that I don’t want to become chief minister, deputy chief minister or AAP’s national convener.
“I don’t want to join any political party or Swaraj India (political party founded by expelled AAP leader Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan). I don’t know what you want to do, but I don’t want to do this,” Vishwas told reporters outside his Ghaziabad residence, as he turned emotional.
The AAP leader was particularly upset with Khan who had alleged on Sunday that Vishwas was plotting a coup against Kejriwal and that he was an “RSS-BJP agent”.
“Had Amanatullah Khan said anything like this against Arvind or Manish, he would have been shown the door in 10 minutes,” Vishwas said, adding that he, along with Kejriwal and Sisodia had dreamt of an anti-corruption movement, which later became a political party. He said Khan was merely a “mask” behind the “coterie” hatching conspiracies against him.
“A lot of tarnishing of image will take place. Let me tell those hatching conspiracies that I will not let this happen. I will take a decision in a day,” Vishwas said. Kejriwal had sought to quell rumours of a rift with Vishwas by referring to him as his “younger brother”.
Earlier, 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 stressed on the need to introspect. He had pointed out the “communication gap” between party leadership and volunteers after a string of electoral defeats in the past few months.
“I thought after six electoral defeats, I had pointed out the right reason for the debacle. The coterie was responsible (for the defeats) which was behind ticket distribution, the one who engineered the statements (given by Khan). The morale of our volunteers has taken a hit,” Vishwas said, adding that several of them left their jobs for the party.
Vishwas appeared defiant despite the party’s gag order of not ventilating grievances before the media and said he will keep highlighting the mistakes of the AAP and say what is right in the interest of the country.
“If by raising voice in favour of the nation my party gets upset, even then I will keep on raising these issues,” Vishwas said. He had also differed with Kejriwal over the controversy after the surgical strike and said it could have been avoided. The BJP had accused Kejriwal of demanding proof for the strike last year.
“When the morale of our forces fighting terrorism were down and we raised questions. In that case, we need to do course correction,” he said. Reacting to this, Sisodia said Vishwas’ comments are only hurting the party and affecting morale. “He doesn’t talk in the PAC. He should speak there,” Sisodia said, adding Vishwas is turning this into a “personal fight”.
“It would be wrong to say that only Kumar, Arvind Kejriwal and I made the party, which he has been repeating. He should speak in the PAC. He did not attend last night’s PAC. I and Sanjay (Singh) had gone to meet him. Arvind has spoken to him for three hours at a stretch,” Sisodia said.
Workers know which party, individuals and powers are getting benefited from Vishwas’ television interview, Sisodia said, as he urged him to come to PAC and raise these issues.
Earlier in the day, several AAP MLAs, including Delhi Minister Kapil Mishra met Vishwas, seeking to pacify him.
However, it appeared to have yielded no results.