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Kejriwal faces trial, senior leaders bicker

New Delhi, June 6: The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) today had double-trouble on its hands, with chief Arvind Kejriwal put on trial in a defamation case and a confidant accusing a senior colleague of maligning the party boss.

The twin incidents increased the problems for the embattled AAP at a time it is trying to bounce back from its indifferent showing in the Lok Sabha polls that followed a dream debut in last year’s Delhi elections.

Former Delhi minister Manish Sisodia hit out at party ideologue Yogendra Yadav in a letter that was leaked to the media, the war among the top leaders coming on a day magistrate Gomati Manocha framed charges against Kejriwal in the defamation case filed by BJP leader Nitin Gadkari and put the AAP chief on trial after he rejected the judge’s suggestion to resolve the matter amicably. Kejriwal faces up to two years in jail if found guilty.

Kejriwal refused to withdraw his alleged defamatory remarks against Gadkari, whom he had dubbed “corrupt”. Magistrate Manocha said the AAP leader’s trial would begin on August 2 and accepted his plea for exemption from personal appearance. The judge had twice sent Kejriwal to jail last month after he refused to furnish a bail bond.

In his letter, Sisodia accused Yadav of targeting Kejriwal, bringing party feuds before the media and wrongly advising the AAP boss to contest the Lok Sabha polls instead of focusing on Delhi.

“Arvind was against fighting the Lok Sabha polls. He just wanted to concentrate on the politics in Delhi. But it was you (Yadav) and a few other members who wanted to fight (the general election). The result is now in front of us,” Sisodia wrote.

The claims came amid murmurs in the AAP against the decision to contest the polls without adequate preparation and a refrain that Kejriwal’s move to fight against Narendra Modi from Varanasi was a “big mistake”.

AAP leaders said the election strategy had cost the party dear in Delhi, where it failed to win a single of the seven Lok Sabha seats and fears a defeat in the Assembly polls too.

Sisodia’s letter was in response to an email from Yadav to AAP leaders in which he had remarked that “Arvind is turning into a personality cult that can damage an organisation and the leader himself”. He had also accused Kejriwal of not listening to the political affairs committee of the party, the AAP’s top panel.

“Your broad allegations are that Arvind Kejriwal does not listen to the suggestions of the political affairs committee. I am surprised by reading your email because till the time Arvind agreed with you, he was democratic,” Sisodia said in his letter.

Yadav has already resigned from the political affairs committee, taking moral responsibility for the party’s poor performance in Haryana, a state that was under his charge and included Gurgaon from where he lost himself.

The Sisodia-Yadav face-off follows the exit of leaders who were seen as public faces of the AAP, such as Shazia Ilmi who quit after the election results last month alleging lack of “internal democracy in the party”.

Many in the AAP are now worried that the “open war” between Sisodia and Yadav could lead to more such convulsions in the future as there is considerable anger in the rank and file over the debacle in the Lok Sabha polls.

A three-day meeting of the AAP national executive started today and is likely to be stormy with more leaders likely to blame each other.

Sisodia, however, sought to underplay the apparent rancour and claimed his letter was “part of the inner party discussions”. “It was part of the discussions. These things happen in a party and everything will be sorted out,” Sisodia tweeted. Yadav refused comment.