The Telegraph
Tuesday , August 19 , 2014
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Kejriwal dissent cloud on revival

New Delhi, Aug. 18: Arvind Kejriwal’s alleged dictatorial attitude is being flagged unceasingly by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) rank and file, putting road blocks in the path of the party desperate to bounce back after the Lok Sabha poll drubbing.

A group of AAP volunteers staged a dharna at Jantar Mantar yesterday demanding a say for every member in the decision-making process and blaming Kejriwal’s “autocratic” ways for the pathetic situation the party finds itself in.

The public protest came close on the heels of similar accusations against the AAP chief by Shanti Bhushan, one of the party’s founding members and a noted lawyer.

The senior Bhushan — whose son Prashant is an AAP founder member too — alleged there was no inner-party democracy and said Kejriwal lacked organisational skills. “Arvind Kejriwal is a good leader but he lacks organisational skills and competence to expand the party across India. He lacks political maturity,” the 88-year-old Shanti Bhushan had said.

Prior to this, another founder member regarded as an AAP ideologue, Yogendra Yadav, had sought to question the decision making process. Yadav was peeved over the party’s announcement that it would not contest the upcoming Haryana elections and claimed the decision to stay out was taken despite opposition from state volunteers.

The dissent against Kejriwal has dealt a body blow to the AAP’s main goal — reconnect with Delhi voters who had brought it to power in the state in December last year in a stunning debut.

Some have spotted signs of waning appeal on the ground: crowds no longer flock to Kejriwal’s events the way they did before.

Publicly, the AAP has chosen to rubbish the attacks on Kejriwal, terming them “misplaced” and asserting that internal democracy was alive and kicking.

Party insiders said, however, that Kejriwal has drawn himself into a shell after the general election fiasco, surrounding himself with a handful of Delhi centric leaders and inviting more questions about his style of functioning.

According to the insiders, Kejriwal has set his sights on Delhi and admitted spreading the AAP across the country and contesting 434 Lok Sabha seats was a mistake.

But several leaders fear that Delhi may not back the AAP again if elections are held later this year, a prospect that could put question marks on the party’s future.

The Delhi Assembly is under suspended animation after Kejriwal quit as chief minister in January — within two months of taking charge with the Congress’s support — and no party presented the numbers later to stake claim to power.

“We are realising that the middle class, our core supporters, has got disillusioned with us. The poor continue to support us but they alone cannot bring us to power in Delhi,” said a senior AAP leader.

In recent weeks, the AAP has taken up a signature campaign to demand early elections, the move seen as an attempt to lift the morale of volunteers and put pressure on the Narendra Modi government to announce the polls.

The AAP fears the BJP —which was the single largest party in the polls of last December but still short of majority — might not go for elections now and could form a government with Congress and AAP MLAs reportedly ready to defect.