AAP Rift: Decoding The Differences In 'Party With A Difference'

10/03/2015 8:06 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
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NEW DELHI, INDIA - JUNE 8: AAP leaders Arvind Kejriwal, Prashant Bhushan, Manish Sisodia and Yogendra Yadav during a press conference at Jung Pura on June 8, 2014 in New Delhi, India. Kejriwal admitted that he makes mistakes and Yogendra Yadav as a member of the party has the right to point them out. He said AAP wants to establish swaraj in the country and in the next one-year; we will reconstruct the party from booth to national level. We will reconstitute various committees at all levels. (Photo by Sushil Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

To paraphrase Scottish poet Robert Burns, "The best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry." Nothing could describe the situation of AAP better. A party that until last week was being hailed for everything it did right to win Delhi is now busy battling an 'ideological' fight within its own ranks.

Every party goes through a churn and internal tussles, often re-emerging from them stronger. Certainly, it would be hypocritical if I didn't acknowledge the many internal changes that have happened over the years in the organisation I am a part of. Change is the only constant, as they say, but if these changes are as frequent as they have been in AAP they only create confusion in the minds of the voters. After winning a historic mandate, it was disappointing to see how the AAP, which was voted into power for being an organisation with a difference, was rapidly reducing to a being a party with differences. While the people of Delhi patiently wait for the government to fulfill its promises, they are being subjected to an all-out war between two factions of the party. This very public and ugly spat becomes all the more troubling because it reveals the chinks in AAP's claims of being a party that is democratic, transparent and tolerant of all views.

All eyes were on the National Executive of the party that would 'decide the fate' of two of its founder members, Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan. While many of AAP's supporters were trending UnitedAAP on Twitter, it didn't deter the executive's decision to evict two members from the all-important Political Affairs Committee. The reason? The two dared to do the unthinkable - that is to challenge Arvind Kejriwal.

""The best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry."

So what led to this ugly face off? While one faction claims that AAP wanted to concentrate solely on governing Delhi and not grapple with a national agenda yet, another group was keen to broaden the scope of the party beyond Delhi. The other point of contention is the ideological leanings of both factions. There are charges of compromising on principles while deciding candidates in Delhi, controversies on fund collection and differences on the need for more transparency. The party claims to have an internal Lokpal but right now the winning faction is in no mood to pay heed to its recommendations. However, these are merely distracters that muddle the ugly truth of a fight to be in total control of a party. A party that started as an idea is now increasingly focused on one man. That's where the differences lie.

After they were unceremoniously stripped of their position, both Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan have been clarifying that they will continue to work for the party and all that it stands for. With an acrimonious battle played out on all fronts it will be an uphill task for the party to take everyone along or work in harmony. A lot of voices of dissent are already being heard openly from various quarters. From Mayank Gandhi, a member of the National Executive, hitting out at Arvind Kejriwal to Anjali Damania hitting out at Mayank Gandhi. It has become a free for all. As things are panning out this is not the end of the power tussle in AAP.

"Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power."

While Arvind Kejriwal, the central figure of the conflict and as of now the all-important leader of AAP, is away in Bengaluru for medical treatment we get to read hear some sycophantic voices on one side and dissenting ones from the other. What needs to be serious cause for introspection is the funding of the party. Earlier when questions were raised, AAP would accuse its rivals of waging a smear campaign against the party. But what can it do when the same concerns are raised by its own people? The party's internal Lokpal also raised similar concerns. It currently looks as if the internal Lokpal is a mere showpiece designed to present AAP as being different from other political parties. But the mirage is not holding up.

As Abraham Lincoln once famously said, "Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power." As of now, the party and Kejriwal's character are severely under trial. Until that is settled Delhi can await Swarajya or direct democracy. As the events unfold, it remains to be seen how much Kejriwal actually believes in this principle.

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