Damania quits AAP after sting on Kejriwal; rebels defiant

New Delhi (IANS): Delhi’s ruling crisis-hit AAP faced further shocks on Wednesday as senior leader Anjali Damania quit the party after a sting on Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal while two other senior leaders ousted from its top body reiterated their calls for inner-party democracy.

But Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav, in the same breath, pleaded for an end to an unprecedented internecine war which has rocked the party even as some AAP legislators in Delhi sought their expulsion.

Kejriwal, meanwhile, remained in near seclusion in a hospital in Bengaluru, where doctors said he was responding well to the naturopathy treatment for his persistent cough and high blood sugar levels.

Wednesday’s biggest jolt to the AAP — which took power in Delhi only in February — came when Damania, a senior leader from Maharashtra, quit in a huff, accusing Kejriwal of betraying the principles on which the party was founded in 2012.

She said on Twitter: “I quit… I have not come into AAP for this nonsense.”

Her remarks came after a former AAP legislator in Delhi released a telephonic conversation in which a person said to be Kejriwal is heard saying — after he quit as chief minister in February last year — that he would not mind taking Congress support again to form a government.

“I believed him. I backed Arvind for principles, not horse-trading,” said Damania, who had left the AAP in June 2014 too but then rejoined it.

In other tweets, she added: “AAP is not a political party. It was a ray of hope for this country. Thousands of (volunteers) slogged for it. Just no one can play with the ‘siddhant’ (principles).”

In the audio tape, Kejriwal is heard asking then party legislator Rajesh Garg to “break” the Congress and get at least six of its eight legislators to prop up an AAP government.

AAP’s Ashish Khetan, a Kejriwal loyalist, said Kejriwal’s comments did not mean that he believed in horse-trading.

“Political realignment is a reality in politics but ‘horse-trading’ is wrong. Even if we assume the tape is authentic, where does it suggest that monetary gains were offered by AAP in exchange for support?” he asked.

As the sting-cum-Damania fire erupted, Bhushan and Yadav, ousted from the Political Affairs Committee (PAC) on March 4, wrote an open letter to party volunteers, saying the allegations of “anti-party activities” hurled at them were “laughable”.

Bhushan, a leading Supreme Court advocate, is one of the founders of the AAP. Yadav is one of India’s best known political pundits. Both have repeatedly said — they made the point again Wednesday — that they would not leave the AAP.

The two denied they were hankering after any party post and insisted that they had come under attack from Kejriwal loyalists simply because they demanded inner-party democracy and political honesty.

In a five-page letter in Hindi, they said: “We raised some institutional issues but were charged with fictitious allegations. We worked for the soul and unity of the party but were accused of sabotaging the party.”

“In the past two weeks, it has been repeatedly discussed that the differences within the party were over the post of the National Convener. This is not true.

“It was said Yogendra Yadav is plotting to unseat Kejriwal from the post of the party chief.

“The truth is that when Arvind offered to resign from the post of the national convener, we voted to reject it.”

The letter also said that Kejriwal wanted the Congress support to form a government in Delhi but Yadav and Bhushan, among others, opposed the move.

“We will make every effort to save the party,” they said, adding that it was their hope that Kejriwal would resolve the crisis when he returns from Bengaluru.

Damania, however, did not spare Bhushan and Yadav too.

In one tweet, in an apparent reference to the public squabble, she said: “AAP will only work on (principles). Just enough of nonsense. Arvind, PB and YY should beg apology to the ‘volunteers’ in next 48 hours for their acts.”