NEW DELHI(TOI): The exit of dissident leaders Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav from AAP seemed imminent with the party's political affairs committee on Thursday accepting their "resignation" even as the two disputed they had submitted any such letters.
The development marks the breakdown of 10-day long talks between loyalists of AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal and the two senior leaders. The crisis within an imploding AAP could lead to the ouster of the two members from the party on Saturday. This could also trigger a splinter group breaking away, particularly from among the non-Delhi functionaries.
Bhushan-Yadav had on March 17 submitted a letter to break the deadlock within the party, offering to resign if five conditions including autonomy of state units, probe on unethical practices and stings, greater participation of volunteers in the decision-making process, ensuring the party came under RTI and filling of existing vacancies in the national executive through secret ballot were met. The two had been charged with anti-party activities and voted out of the PAC in the party's national executive meeting on March 4.
Significantly, Kejriwal himself has maintained a silence on this issue and not met either Bhushan or Yadav in the last 10 days.
According to the Kejriwal camp, the party had met all the conditions laid down by Bhushan-Yadav in the protracted negotiations but was not willing to accept their demand that Kejriwal be removed as national convener. This has been flatly denied by the duo, who accused the Kejriwal clique of lies, with Yadav demanding that a copy of the resignation letter be produced.
Speculation was rife on Thursday evening that the dissident group had recorded the negotiations and would reveal the taped conversations at a later stage to establish that they had not sought Kejriwal's ouster as national convenor. If so, this would only be one more instance of 'sting' operations being resorted to in this increasingly murky showdown between the two camps.
"We have not resigned. The note was just a starting point for negotiations, but if our conditions are agreed to even now, we will be willing to quit from all positions. There are differences, there are fights, but some limits must be observed. It is unfortunate and sad that such senior leaders in our party have resorted to lies. We used to say this about Congress and BJP members...that they lie," Yadav said.
In an open letter to Kejriwal two days ahead of AAP's crucial national council meeting, Bhushan and Yadav charged the Delhi CM of trying to force their resignations from the national executive just like he had ensured their ouster from the PAC. The two said that the "principal intent of these talks is to secure our resignation.....the message from your side is loud and clear: either resign gracefully or you'll be thrown out."
He was countering a statement made by Kejriwal camp member Kumar Vishwas who said that the PAC had accepted Bhushan and Yadav's resignations. PAC member Ashutosh, known to be a Kejriwal loyalist, said talks have failed as Bhushan and Yadav were adamant on the removal of Kejriwal as the national convenor.
Speaking after the PAC meeting, Ashutosh tweeted, "Talks failed. Prashant and Yogendra adamant on Arvind's removal from the chair of national convenor. Party is willing to accept all demands of Prashant/ Yogendra, not removal of Arvind. Why PB/YY are insistent on Arvind's removal? I am amazed."
Delhi unit functionary Dilip Pandey added his voice by tweeting, ``Sad, thought its about issue and principles. Alas, its not. Party leaders accepted all demands of YY- PB.'' He added that the party had accepted all the demands made by the two senior leaders including adding seven more members to the National Executive though they were not part of the National Council, giving Yadav the charge of Haryana state unit and also agreeing to keep party functionary Naveen Jaihind out of the state's affairs.
He added that in accordance with Yadav's wishes other senior members like deputy CM Manish Sisodia, Kejriwal loyalists Sanjay Singh and Kumar Vishwas had also agreed to step down from the PAC but the duo were not satisfied with that either. ``They said they never wrote letter on 17th March (the negotiation letter), they actually did and denied. They say something else inside and something outside. YY PB now adamant for AK's resignation. Now let NC and volunteers of country on 28 March decide whether they want AK out of party or not,'' Pandey said.
In their letter, Yadav and Bhushan said they never made any attempt to dislodge Kejriwal from convenor's position in the party and that they always extended whatever support they could give to him. ``What have we done Arvind bhai to deserve this personal animosity?...We've questioned you when you did not want to be questioned. Yes, we've warned and alerted you against ill-advised and hasty moves, and yes, we've stood up when you refused to listen. Is that a crime for a party built on the principles of Swaraj? Yes, we're inconvenient and shall continue to be so but don't you want at least some people around you who can speak truth on your face?'' the letter said.