New Delhi: In the throes of internal strife, Delhi's ruling AAP on Sunday replaced its Lokpal, retired Admiral L. Ramdas, with a team of three ombudsmen, who include two former police officers.
A day after it sacked dissident leaders Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav, Aam Aadmi Party leaders who met at Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's residence also set up a new disciplinary committee and a panel to study the party's state of affairs in various states.
The AAP also decided to lay siege to parliament on April 22 to protest against the land acquisition bill.
Simultaneously, the AAP on Sunday released the entire transcript of Kejriwal's speech at its National Executive meet on Saturday that led to the sacking of Yadav and Bhushan from the top body -- and resulted in their calling the chief minister an autocrat.
Bhushan and Yadav, who are co-founders of the AAP along with Kejriwal, have pledged to approach the Supreme Court and the Election Commission against their sacking.
But the AAP sought to underline on Sunday that Ramdas, a former chief of the Indian Navy, was not removed or sacked but his term had ended.
"A new Lokpal committee has been constituted. The tenure of Ramdas was over, so a new Lokpal had to be appointed. It should not be considered he was removed or sacked," party leader Sanjay Singh told reporters.
Ramdas, however, said he was surprised to hear from the media that the AAP no longer required his services.
"I am disappointed that the leadership of the party did not accord me the courtesy of informing me first before making this decision public. I still await their phone call," he said in a statement.
"I am surprised because less than two weeks ago, the party publicly reaffirmed its confidence in me. At no point in my tenure did the party express to me any dissatisfaction with my service.
"I am, however, more sad than surprised. It was with a sense of excitement and hope that I became part of this movement to bring a new kind of politics to India," it said.
The new Lokpal panel will include retired police officers N. Dilip Kumar, formerly of Delhi Police, and Rakesh Sinha, a former deputy inspector general in the Central Industrial Security Force, as well as educationist S.P. Verma.
A new disciplinary committee was constituted, replacing Bhushan with Ashish Khetan, a former journalist and a Kejriwal loyalist.
Dinesh Vaghela, a social activist, was named the team's new head while Pankaj Gupta would be its third member.
Pankaj Gupta said the committee to study the potential of the AAP in various states would be headed by Sanjay Singh.
It would deal with "problems of booth level volunteers and funding... to ascertain the party's political status in those states. After a detailed report, the committee will form the agendas and future plans for states", he said.
Gupta said the party had decided to protest against the land acquisition bill with a "gherao" of parliament on April 22.
"The decision to protest against land acquisition was taken at Saturday's national executive meet itself. A six-member committee has been formed to execute the gherao."
Yadav, Bhushan and their supporters promptly hit back.
"This is a Stalinist regime and only one man's writ will run," Bhushan said, referring to Kejriwal.
"It is farcical to appoint Khetan in the disciplinary committee when he has made personal comments against me."
"Also, the manner in which the Lokpal has been removed is against the AAP's constitution under which the Lokpal appoints his or her successor."
Yadav added: "The National Executive has no authority to appoint a new Lokpal. Only the Lokpal can appoint his successor. Shocked to hear that a party built on Lokpal movement has thrown out its own Lokpal."