Some relationships are all about shock and awe. I have never been in awe of anyone in my entire career, be it Nelson Mandela or Vivian Richards, but yes, I was always shocked by your audacity to challenge the establishment in courts and I was awed with the hope and aspirations of millions who voted for AAP in 2013, and of whom you are an integral part.
But during the 2015 assembly elections, I was looking for that man with determination that I knew you to be, but unfortunately I could not discover that man in the vicinity of my horizon. I was shocked by the turn of the events, and was in awe of the travesty of destiny.
When I look back, I remember with fondness my meetings as Managing Editor of a news channel with you, when I would seek your expert legal advice on a few stories which we wanted to carry. You were always more than willing to help.
During the Anna Hazare anti-corruption movement, you were always open to sharing any information which was news-worthy. I broke many stories. Those were not leaks but genuine information which deserved to be shared with millions. When I joined the party, you were one of the few who genuinely welcomed and encouraged me. It was new territory, but I knew I was in safe company.
The initial few months were great. We all were comrades in arms, but during the parliamentary elections, I could sense a tension which grew after the humiliating debacle and turned into an open fissure. I can’t exactly pinpoint the date, but it was probably in Tilak Lane, Arvind’s residence, when I was jolted out of a slumber in the PAC (Political Affairs Committee) meeting, hearing you shout – “Let us wind up the party”. I could not figure out what was the provocation. Later, it became almost a rule. Every now and then you would shout – “Let’s wind up the party”.
After hearing this at least four or five times, you will remember that in one of the meetings, I lost my cool and shouted back and said, “This party is not anyone’s property that we should wind up the party. This party belongs to thousands of volunteers and when the whole world is looking at us with hope, what kind of future can we present when we can’t talk in a sober and smooth manner?”
I immediately realised that my outburst would not be liked by you and some others. I was probably provoked by the previous meeting’s outburst by your father, Mr. Shanti Bhushan. I remember a few of us were very upset with the frequent outbursts that came from you and your father. In one of these meetings, Shanti ji had openly said, “The National Convener is there only to convene the meetings. He has no power.” Everyone present was shocked. A copy of the constitution was brought in, and a heated discussion ensued about the power of the National Convener, Arvind Kejriwal. All of us were sad. This reached a pinnacle when Arvind ended up crying in the National Executive (NE) meet held in Jangpura at your place. Arvind had decided to leave politics and everyone at the NE heard him say that he had fought with governments and top leaders, but he could not fight with you and Yogendra and let Yogendra ji be made National Convener.
A truce was reached between you and Arvind. But it was short-lived. Shanti Ji wrote a nasty letter. He told Arvind “You are good for nothing and you better resign and let Yogendra be appointed as National Convener, otherwise he will hold a press conference and expose you.” Arvind was very hurt. He had always considered him a father figure and this was most unexpected. Shanti ji had breached the Lakshman Rekha. This is when you should have stepped in and reined in your father. It did not happen. I was also told that you were very angry that Arvind and a few of us for trying to explore the possibility of forming the government with the support of the Congress. I can very well understand if you were upset but to brand us “immoral and opportunist” was not democratic. Everyone has been ordained by the party constitution to express his or her opinion. It was up to the party to accept or reject it. To call names due to this is most undemocratic. It was typical of a Leninist-Stalinist approach. I could say that whenever the PAC did not agree with your opinion, then you lost your cool. May I ask, is it not democratic to accept a majority opinion?
This tension continued. But it got ugly during the assembly elections. You just rubbished us as a group of hoodlums who are out to grab power. You know very well that I had left a very lucrative job and had been a respected editor. Nobody could ever point a finger at me during my entire career. And here you, who knew me so well, were calling me names. Your father said that I had sold party tickets for some crores. Prashant Bhai, I request you and your father to please ask your friend Arun Jaitley and get an inquiry done, and if I am found guilty, then put me in jail, otherwise you both tender a public apology.
Prashant Bhai, can you explain when thousands of volunteers were slogging day and night, were fighting a life and death battle for party, how many days did you campaign for the party? Let me remind you if you have forgotten – just one day in Timarpur for your friend Pankaj Pushkar.
Can you inform the whole world how many times you threatened to hold a press conference and destroy the party? Why don’t you confide to the public at large why senior members of the party from outside Delhi had to be deputed to talk to you, to convince you to not go public? These people spent days and hours at your residence and in your chamber. All of us who were working day and night lived in dread as we were living in eternal uncertainty wondering when, you will hold a press conference and destroy the party. We knew it would be a great scoop for the media and the BJP.
The reason was that you were upset with the candidate selection. You had a problem with a few. Let everyone know that all these names were sent to the Complaints Committee, and when you were not satisfied with their decision, then it was taken to the Lokpal, and when the Lokpal decided to drop two names on the last day of nominations, it was immediately complied with. You had no reason to be angry. Every process inscribed in the party constitution was duly followed. Every scrutiny was done, and may I ask you, which party drops its candidate on the last day of nomination? We could not have done more. Sorry, sir, you were wrong.
I am not blaming you but the reality was that the entire list of candidates whom you thought were inppropriate was leaked to an English newspaper and this traumatized us no end. Shanti ji gave an interview to a business daily and praised Kiran Bedi, and the next day, his praise turned into hate and he described Arvind as worse than Ajay Maken of the Congress. It is true that you contradicted your father. But the damage was done. Ideally, you being the chairman of the national disciplinary committee, should have given instructions to issue a notice for him to be disciplined. It was an anti-party activity. But that did not happen. Please tell me, why I should not conclude that he had your silent consent, as you yourself had openly declared that AAP should lose the elections and should not win more than 22 seats? And it was you who had discouraged outside volunteers not to come to Delhi for campaigning.
Prashant Bhai. I was really shocked by your behavior. And open defiance. No organisation will survive if a minimum discipline is not adhered to. Tell me, if you had been the National Convener, and a senior member would have replicated your behaviour, how would you have reacted? I am always in awe of life, and always remember it takes millions of seconds to create something, but only a few seconds to destroy. It. Even if things did not move the way you wanted, was it not possible to sit together after the elections and force everyone to see the light, instead of damaging the party when it was in the battlefield? Prashant Bhai, someday you will realise you were wrong, and then you will regret it, but maybe by then it will be too late.
(Ashutosh joined the Aam Aadmi Party in January 2014. The former journalist took on former Union minister Kapil Sibal and Health Minister Harsh Vardhan in the national election from Chandni Chowk in Delhi.)
The article was first published on NDTV.
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