“Despite our best efforts to dissuade him, he and some other colleagues remained adamant on this stand. Most MLAs also supported them. However, most volunteers and leaders from Delhi and other parts of the country opposed this strongly, as soon as they heard of this proposition. Some even said that they would have to leave the party if such a move was made,” the two senior AAP leaders said.
The letter, which was released on Thursday night, is aimed at clearing the air on the stories floating around in various sections of the media about the differences and disputes between senior memebers of the Aam Aadmi Party.
Here is the full text of the letter written by Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav:
We do know that the events of the past few days have deeply disturbed our volunteers, be they in India or in different parts of the world. The hope and enthusiasm created by the historic win in Delhi has been dampened. Each volunteer – like you – wants to know why this historic win has been followed by such deep differences and disputes. All volunteers want that there should be no rifts and fights at the top. When volunteers hear of differences between the top leadership of the party through TV and newspapers, when they hear allegations and counter allegations, not only do they feel helpless, but they also feel insulted. This is causing us a deep sense of pain and anguish.
Keeping in mind the party’s best interests, as well as the sentiments of volunteers like you, the two of us have not added anything to the list of allegations and counter-allegations made in the last 10 days. We answered some questions that were posed to us, but we ourselves didn’t ask any questions. We repeatedly appealed to our volunteers and supporters that they should maintain their faith in the party, as the party is much bigger than any individuals. We all have our individual shortcomings, and that is the reason we have an organization where we can complement each other’s shortcomings. That is the reason the party is much bigger than any of us, and that is the reason that we have worked with the party till today and shall continue to do so in the future as well.
However, after four of our colleagues (Mr. Manish Sisodia, Mr. Gopal Rai, Mr. Pankaj Gupta and Mr. Sanjay Singh) made a public statement yesterday, we shall have to break our silence with a heavy heart. Wew are now being pushed to respond to the allegations made on both of us. Their statement putting forward the majority opinion in the National Executive was communicated by Aam Aadmi Party’s Media Cell, as well as the official websites, Facebook page and Twitter handles. Now if we remain silent, it would mean that there is some element of truth in the allegations made against us. That is the reason we want to put the whole truth before you.
Before we go any further, we must clarify that in the aforementioned statement, there were some allegations made linking the two of us to Mr. Shanti Bhushan. As it is well known, Mr.Shanti Bhushan made several statements before the Delhi elections that tarnished the image of party and could have had a negative impact on the preparations for the Delhi elections. His statements caused unhappiness and dissatisfaction to the volunteers of this party. On all such occasions, both of us made public statements expressing our disagreement with his opinions and statements. Since both of our opinion is not in agreement with Mr. Shanti Bhushan, we believe that he should address any questions related to these issues, in his own individual capacity.
Another issue that must be clarified and refuted is the allegation being repeatedly made in the past week. It is being said that this entire dispute is regarding the National Convenorship of the party. It has been said that we have been hatching a conspiracy to remove Arvind Bhai from this position and make Yogendra Yadav the National Convenor. The truth is that we have NEVER discussed this in any formal or informal meeting. In the National Executive meeting on 26th February, when there was a proposal on this issue, both of us voted that his resignation must not be accepted and he MUST continue as the National Convenor of the party. Let us assure you that whatever be the differences and disputes between us, the issue of National Convenorship have never been an issue, and never will be.
After realizing this truth, many volunteers have asked, “If the controversy is not over the post of the National Convenor, then what is the dispute about? Why have such deep differences erupted between the leaders of our party?” So far we have maintained a silence on these issues, so that differences remain within the four walls of the party. However, we now feel that till you know the real issues, you will have doubts and uncertainty in your mind. Therefore, we are discussing the main issues that have been the reason for the differences with Arvind Bhai and other colleagues in the past 10 months. We want you to tell us, whether we should have raised these issues or not?
1. Soon after the results of the Lok Sabha elections, Arvind Bhai proposed that we should one again take the support of the Congress and form the government in Delhi. Despite our best efforts to dissuade him, he and some other colleagues remained adamant on this stand. Most MLAs also supported them. However, most volunteers and leaders from Delhi and other parts of the country opposed this strongly, as soon as they heard of this proposition. Some even said that they would have to leave the party if such a move was made. The party had petitioned the High Court asking for dissolution of the Delhi Assembly. As it is, Congress had already been decimated in the Lok Sabha. An alliance with the Congress at this juncture would finish the standing of Aam Aadmi Party. We raised this issue within the party. We urged that such a decision should be taken according to the wishes of the PAC and the National Executive. Despite these requests, a letter was sent to the Lieutenant Governor and an attempt was made to form the government. Such attempts went on right up to the dissolution of the Assembly in November. (Here in this letter we are not disclosing various other confidential details regarding this entire episode in the interests of the party.) Both of us opposed the move to form a government with the Congress, at every party forum. It was on this issue that the deep differences between us began. We leave it up to you to decide whether it was right to have opposed the move of forming a government with the Congress. If we had formed a government with the Congress, would we have been able to win the hearts of the people of Delhi again?
2. Soon after the results of the Lok Sabha elections Mr. Manish Sisodia, Mr. Sanjay Singh and Mr. Ashutosh started putting forward a strange demand. They said that all members of the PAC must take responsibility for the defeat and submit their resignation to Arvind Bhai, who should be allowed to reconstitute a new PAC, according to his wishes and convenience. There was a demand for the dissolution of the National Executive. Both of us, and a few other colleagues opposed this decision. (Yogendra ji’s resignation from the PAC was related to this issue.) If we didn’t oppose such unconstitutional moves, how would we have remained any different from the Congress or the BSP?
3. In the National Executive meeting in June 2014, it was decided that the opinion of the volunteers should be taken regarding the decision to fight elections in Maharashtra, Haryana, Jharkhand and Jammu-Kashmir. After gathering the opinion of volunteers, there was a majority opinion within the National Executive that the decision of whether to fight elections or not should be left up to the State units. However, Arvind Bhai did not agree with the majority opinion. He said that is the party decided to contest elections anywhere, he would not go and campaign. The National Executive thereafter chose to overturn their decision and accept Arvind Bhai’s opinion and decided not to contest any State elections. Today in hindsight it seems that the decision to not contest was advantageous to the party. However, the question still remains as to how such decisions should be taken in the future? Is it not correct to raise the question of autonomy of State units in a party that upholds the ideals of Swaraj?
5. Karan Singh was ousted from the party on charges of anti-party activities and for helping form AVAM. He was accused of sending an SMS to party volunteers to leave AAP and join the BJP. However, Karan Singh denied this and sensing foul play on the party’s behalf, to sully his image, he approached the party’s disciplinary committee headed by Prashant Bhushan to have the matter investigated thoroughly. As the party office bearers did not show much inclination or interest in trying to get to the root of the matter, despite PB demanding a strict investigation, Karan Singh finally approached the police to get the matter investigated independently. It was revealed that another volunteer named Deepak Chaudhary, and not Karan Singh, was responsible for sending out the SMS. However, instead of upholding PB’s intent to deliver judicious justice on the party’s behalf he too was implicated of supporting AVAM. There is little doubt that later AVAM did indulge in anti-party activities too. But from an ethical viewpoint if a volunteer makes an appeal for a fair investigation should the party’s disciplinary committee not live up to that expectation?
6. In the run up to the recent Delhi elections both of us started receiving complaints from party volunteers regarding the credibility and suitability of some of the AAP MLA contestants. Volunteers accused that the party was compromising its principles by making winnability as the main criterion and overlooking the fact that some of the candidates had criminal backgrounds or were hardly any different from the MLA aspirants of other political parties. There were also complaints regarding the sidelining of old party volunteers and that the transparency of candidate selection in local party committees was being compromised. Given the situation both of us urged that detailed information regarding all candidates be shared first with the PAC and later with the people. We suggested that any final decision regarding MLA candidature should only be made after a systematic discussion within the PAC – a requirement that would also help us align with our party’s constitution. In trying to uphold the party’s principles and standards, we were being perceived as problematic who were creating distractions and diversions from election work. Finally, due to our continued pressure a Lokpal was constituted to investigate the candidature of 12 contestants. Out of these the nomination of 2 got rejected, 4 were cleared and the remaining six were allowed to file nominations with some abiding preconditions. We would like to leave it to the judgement of the volunteers to label our decisions and actions either as anti party or upholding party principles.
It was to uphold the principles of transparency, democracy and swaraj, on which our party was founded, that we raised these above mentioned six issues as well as several other questions. We raised these questions within only within the party and through appropriate platforms. Also, so that these questions do not create diversions or disruption of election activity we waited for the Delhi elections to end and it was only on 26 Feb 2015 in the National Executive meeting that we tabled the following four proposals through our note:
1. A committee be appointed to uphold the core values and principles of the party. In-depth investigation of matters such as the 2 crores funding cheque, distribution of liquor during campaigning, etc. should fall within the ambit of this committee. This would allow our party to articulate a clear stand of such matters and not deliver mere lip-service like other parties.
2. State bodies of the party should have autonomy. Political decisions regarding States should be decentralized and at least the regional units should be able to take decisions regarding respective local body elections.
3. Internal democracy as well as the organizational structure of the party should be upheld and the meeting of the PAC and the National Executive should be held as per schedule and in a systematic manner.
4. The party needs to build mechanisms to be able to represent and respect the opinion of the party volunteers better.
In return for trying to uphold these institutional principles we have been made targets of false allegations and accusations. While our core goal was to safeguard the unity and integrity of our party, and we made every effort towards this, we are now being accused of harming and damaging the party. It is being said that we both were conniving to make the party lose the election, that we were carrying out negative campaigns, that we were interested in wrangling the post of the Convenor and so on among equally hilarious and preposterous claims. The claims are so outrageous and child like that one feels they are best left ignored. That even responding or reacting to them will only bestow a sense of legitimacy and importance to these charges, which they are of course not worth. But, since these charges have been raised repeatedly, we think it is worthwhile to respond to them and clear the questions and doubts that have been perhaps surfacing in your minds and to clear the facts.
Allegations have been made that Prashant Bhushan was aiding activities that would lead to the party’s defeat in Delhi. The facts and issues around candidate selection have been enumerated above. Prashant was visibly upset with the manner in which candidates had been chosen. Prashant was deeply against the party compromising any of its core principles to ensure winnability in the elections and he continues to believe that this will ultimately be the cause of the party’s demise. According to him to be a principled party was more important than gaining a majority in the short term. He was also worried that if the party fell short or just above the majority mandate by a few seats, the candidates with questionable backgrounds might try and blackmail the party and the party might even fall prey to political horse-trading. To label Prashant Bhushan’s intentions and reasonable insecurities and doubts within the party and call them instead as efforts damaging the chances of the party’s victory is a severe case of misrepresentation.
How Yogendra has harmed the party has not been made explicit in the accusations. As most volunteers know Yogendra held between 80-100 jansabhas during the course of this recent election, addressed the media everyday, conducted poll surveys and predicted the thumping victory of the party, and connected with volunteers over phone and google-hangouts.
Another charge being levied against Prashant Bhushan is that he blackmailed the party that he would hold a press conference to make public the issue of the credibility of the AAP candidates and the process of their nomination. It is true that Prashant Bhuashan was quite upset with the issue of candidate selection. To address his concerns, Yogendra Yadav and fifteen other eminent party members held a three day long meeting at the residence of Prashant Bhushan. It was unanimously decided that suspicious candidatures will be duly investigated by the internal Lokpal and the decision of the Lokpal will be final. And as per this decision, we abided with the decision of the Lokpal and accepted it. Instead of treating these internal voices as voices of dissent, should we not instead feel proud that we are perhaps the first party in the country which is trying to uphold the principle of transparency even in the manner in which it selects its candidates?
In this spate of accusation, yet another one is that in a breakfast meeting in Chandigarh Yogendra told correspondents of ‘The Hindu’ that while deciding about the Haryana Assembly elections the decision of the National Executive was sidelined. This accusation was made by a woman journalist over a telephonic conversation which was covertly recorded by an AAP volunteer. However, when this accusation came into the public fold, Shri SP Singh – an eminent correspondent – who was also present at the same breakfast meeting, clarified that no such information was given by Yogendra as was mentioned by the woman journalist. In fact had such information been shared, there is little reason why the other correspondents present at that breakfast meeting would have not published it. SP Singh’s article can be read athttp://www.caravanmagazine.in/vantage/indian-express-yogendra-yadav-indian-journalism. It is also being said that during the Delhi elections Yogendra shared further damaging information with other journalists. If these charges have any merit and any truth then why are the names of these journalists and correspondents not being shared with the public?
Another allegation made against us is that Prashant and Yogendra supported the group called, AVAM. As has been mentioned earlier that in the capacity as the Chairperson of the National Disciplinary Committee, Prashant requested for a fair investigation in the matter. How can the role of a ‘judge’ be called indiscipline? No evidence has been produced against Yogendra on this count. In fact, AVAM actually wrote an email and accused Yogendra, to which he had publicly replied. And when AVAM attacked the party one week before the elections, it was Yogendra who played a prominent role in defending the party publicly.
However, since these allegations have been made, it is necessary to have an investigation. The constitution of the party says that any allegation made against a National Executive member can be investigated by the Lokpal of the party. Both of us are requesting the Lokpal to investigate the allegations made against us by our four colleagues. If the Lokpal finds us gulty, we would accept any disciplinary action taken against us. What we don’t understand is why the investigation is not being carried out as per the constitution, and allegations are only being leveled in the media.
Friends, this is a moment of grave crisis for the party, as also an opportunity. After such a historic win, it is an opportunity for historic achievements. This is not the moment for getting caught in quibbling and arguments. The dispute in the past few weeks have benefitted some vested interests and damaged and weakened the party. The way out of this is to put all the facts before the volunteers of the party. This party has been created by the sweat and blood of our volunteers. It is the volunteers who will have to decide what is right, and what is wrong. We came into politics with the dream of truth and honesty. You will have to decide whether the two of us have compromised with the ideals of truth, honesty and swaraj?
To reach all of you, we are sharing this letter with the media. We hope that our minority opinion will be respected and our letter would be shared, just as the letter of our four party colleagues was shared. But we don’t want to fuel the public spectacle that this dispute has become in the media. We don’t want the party to suffer further damage to its image. Therefore, after releasing this letter, we are going to maintain silence. We appeal to all colleagues in the party to maintain this silence so that wounds can be healed, and there can be an opportunity for constructive thinking.
Friends, Arvind Bhai is in Bengaluru to improve his state of health. We too are extremely concerned about his state of health. Today Arvind is not only the uncontested leader of Aam Aadmi Party but also the symbol of honest politics in this country. All volunteers of this party want that he regain his good health and return with renewed energy to fulfill his responsibilities to the people of Delhi and the country. We are confident that on his return Arvind Bhai will find a resolution to this deadlock that will save the soul and the unity of this party. We want to assure all of you that the two of us will cooperate in every possible way to keep the party together, without compromising on its ideals and principles. So far we have welcomes any efforts at mediation, and shall continue to welcome them. Whatever happens, we will not let our egos come in the way of any solution. Our holding any posts and positions is not of any relevance. All we want is that party should stay true to its ideals and remain connected to the dreams of lakhs of volunteers. Both of us shall continue to remain within the party, and work according to its principles and discipline.