The citizens of Delhi can only be sad at the internal happenings in the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) over the weekend. After having pushed out on Saturday AAP founder members Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan of the national executive amid allegations of violence, the party took follow-up action on Sunday be removing Admiral (retired) L Ramdas from the post of the internal lokpal and Mr Bhushan as the chief of the disciplinary committee.
The reverberation of this was felt on Saturday itself, when activist Medha Patkar, who felt Mr Yadav and Mr Bhushan had been given a raw deal, quit AAP. But hardly two months ago they all appeared solidly united. The bounce-back of AAP, after it had appeared to have become a burnt-out case, involved the leadership as well as the foot soldiers the party had roped in. And in this turnaround though the most visible face was that of Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, others too contributed. In fact, after the Delhi elections and before the results came out, it was Mr Yadav who gave a media statement saying the party would win 51 seats and then said he was delighted that he had been proved wrong.
As this newspaper has repeatedly stressed, though AAP had been conceived as a political party, it always showed symptoms of being a mass organisation. The upshot of this was that the party did not, and still does not, have a hierarchical structure, which it cited as proof of its internal democracy. AAP stated that it was more interested in the issues that the people faced and less in the intricacies of ideology. This endowed the party with an openness that enabled people of reputation to gather in the same tent. Now the party faces a serious question: Whether all its virtues will blow up in its own face.
With the virtual exit of the two stalwarts, Mr Kejriwal’s responsibility will grow. His first job will be refurbishing AAP’s image, which means explaining to the people why Mr Yadav, Mr Bhushan and Mr Ramdas had to be removed from their positions. In Saturday’s meeting Mr Kejriwal did say they were working towards the party’s defeat, but this will not wash. Then, he must also address niggling questions such as those relating to ticket distribution, which was an issue with Mr Yadav, and also the one of the audio tape in which Mr Kejriwal was reportedly trying to create a split in the Congress legislature party. If he does not, he could be exposing himself to the risk of more such unpleasantness.