The resignation of Ashish Khetan, a close aide of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) chief Arvind Kejriwal and a founding member of the party when it was formed six years ago, close on the heels of the resignation of Ashutosh, another founding member, reflects a fresh crisis for a party that has hurtled from crisis to crisis.
Kejriwal had led AAP to one of the most spectacular electoral victories in independent India’s history but he has clearly failed to carry his team with him.
Although both leaders have steered cleared of blaming Kejriwal or any other party leader, it is inconceivable that there could be any other reason but certain differences in approach with Kejriwal whose propensity for being overbearing and dictatorial are marked.
With the Lok Sabha elections less than a year away and the Delhi Assembly elections a little later, AAP and its leaders are growing increasingly conscious that they will be called to account by the electorate for non-fulfilment of promises, not the least of which were to solve the capital’s power and water woes, besides rooting out corruption.
The party chief himself has come under a cloud for the way he selected three nominees for the Rajya Sabha seats, ignoring the claims of some committed partymen who had stood by him through thick and thin. Allegations that the tickets had been ‘sold’ to two with considerable means while the third was a partyman Sanjay Singh, have disturbed partymen and other well-wishers of the party alike.
One disgruntled party leader, who was known for his outspokenness and poetic ‘andaaz’, Kumar Vishwas quit the party soon after the tickets were announced. This bore testimony to the rumblings within which were considerable. Among other reasons, former journalist Ashutosh was also unhappy that he had been ignored for a Rajya Sabha seat and a coterie around Kejriwal was monopolising decision-making in the party of which he was no longer a part. Kejriwal’s reaction to Ashutosh’s resignation was to say that he could not think of accepting it in this lifetime.
Ashish Khetan, young and articulate, was an asset for the AAP. The warning signs were there when he resigned from the vice-chairmanship of the Delhi Dialogue and Development Commission, an advisory body attached to the Delhi Government ostensibly to devote more time to the legal profession but actually due to simmering differences within.
Whether Ashutosh and Ashish acted in tandem (they submitted their resignations on the same day—August 15) is unclear but the source of their disenchantment was evidently the same—Kejriwal.
For a party that began with a bang with a steamroller win in the country’s capital, the AAP paid a price for Kejriwal’s arrogance and insecurities early on when its most senior and accomplished members Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan were expelled for anti-party activities, for speaking up on issues within the party.
At that point, Kejriwal was able to have his way since he was riding on the crest of a wave that had catapulted him to power. Kejriwal also drifted away from his mentor Anna Hazare, spurning him when he had achieved his ambition to be a prime political leader. That he was not prepared to introspect on anything and brooked no criticism was clear from the word ‘go.’
When Delhi was won, Kejriwal set his sights on other states but his party’s inability to come to power in Punjab despite herculean efforts and much hype dampened his spirits.
Recently, Punjab was the scene of massive rumblings within the party unit after which the high command removed Sukhpal Singh Khaira from the post of Opposition leader and foisted Harpal Singh Cheema as the new leader. That Khaira has not taken things lying down is the reason in Punjab, the AAP is in utter disarray.
Despite his penchant for histrionics, Kejriwal is well aware that the coming elections would be no cake walk for him. He will have to deliver on his promises which is no mean task. The BJP is breathing down his neck and so is the Congress which might ultimately talk peace with him though Rahul is ill-disposed towards him.