New Delhi: Setting the stage for a major showdown, the AAP's crucial National Council meet began on Saturday to decide the fate of its two founding members Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan amid high-drama and chaos.
Ahead of the meeting, Yadav sat on dharna outside the venue for around 20 minutes alleging that a section of the National Council members opposed to Arvind Kejriwal camp were not being allowed inside the meeting. Hours before the meeting, Yadav made public a letter, written by AAP's internal Lokpal Ramdas to the party leadership, in which the former Navy Chief expressed surprise over the party asking him not to attend the meet to 'avoid confrontation'.
In the letter, Ramdas cited the SMS he received from AAP general secretary Pankaj Gupta, in which several reasons were stated by the party for its decision to ask him to skip the meeting. A large number of AAP volunteers from both camps descended at the venue of the meeting at Calista resort in Kapahsera border and engaged in incessant sloganeering against each other.
Apart from the dissident duo - Yadav and Bhushan, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal arrived at around 9:30 am and later chaired the decisive meeting. Heavy contingents of police and RAF have been deployed in the vicinity of the resort, where NC members were allowed inside after registering at a counter. Members who failed to show identification, mobile number, and SMS invite were denied entry.
A proposal to remove Yadav and Bhushan from the party is likely to be moved by the Kejriwal camp on the allegation that the two leaders were trying to remove him from the post of the party's National Convenor, party sources said.
However, in the build-up to the meeting, the Prashant Bhushan-Yogendra Yadav camp said that it won't be easy to remove them from the party. "They can remove us from the National Executive but not from the party. If we have to be removed from the party, the matter has to be referred to the Lokpal or the disciplinary committee," Bhushan said.
Ahead of the meeting, both the groups claimed to have the numbers with them. The party's constitution states that action cannot be taken by the party unless the member is given an opportunity to explain his stand.
The National Council, the third most important body of AAP, has over 350 members. The meeting will also be attended by AAP MLAs and MPs. In the letter, Ramdas mentioned that he was asked not to attend the meeting as it was the 'party's internal affair' and 'as indicated earlier term of Lokpal need to be renewed in the next NE (National Executive meet)'. Gupta also wrote that only MLAs and MPs have been invited apart from authorised NC members to the meeting and 'no one else has been invited'. "So (we) request you to not come to the meeting to avoid any confrontation," he wrote.
This came days after a section of AAP leaders expressed their displeasure over his continuance as the party ombudsman for his letter last month criticising the leadership. In a letter to PAC, AAP's highest decision making body, ahead of the National Executive meeting on February 26, Ramdas noted that there were two camps emerging within the top leadership and had asked the party to consider 'one man, one post' arrangement.
Miffed over the snub, Ramdas said he had come from his village in Maharashtra to attend the meet. However, he would not attend the meet to 'honour' the party's request. "I am quite aware that the NC is the party's internal affair. I am also aware that special invitees/observers have been invited to all bodies from PAC, to NEC to NC in the past," he said.
Taking umbrage to raising the issue of renewing the term of Lokpal, Ramdas said that the party had 'in effect' already extended his initial term as Lokpal when it had asked him to investigate the credentials of candidates from Uttar Pradesh and Haryana prior to the filing of nominations for Lok Sabha elections in 2014.