AAP facing internal strife just ahead of Delhi civic elections


NEW DELHI: Just ahead of the municipal elections at its home turf Delhi, the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party is facing considerable internal strife that many think could split the party.

Days after its Bawana MLA Ved Prakash joined hands with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), another four AAP MLAs are learnt to be in talks with the Congress. Things could get worse for the party that had faced a drubbing in Punjab recently as there’s a strong speculation that over 30 other AAP MLAs could be switching camps, sources indicated.

ET has gathered that at least four AAP MLAs have been in contact with senior Congress leaders, including Digvijaya Singh recently, in a bid to join the party. They have also assured the support of 31 other AAP MLAs who are believed to be waiting in the wings and the paperwork has been forwarded to PC Chacko, general secretary in charge of Delhi affairs.

When contacted, AAP leaders refused to comment on the matter and maintained that the party was intact. The issue is being discussed within the Congress, but the Delhi unit of the party has voiced its concerns on the issue. Both Ajay Maken, president Delhi State Congress, and Chacko did not respond to ET queries.

Of AAP’s 67 MLAs in Delhi, many have also turned rebels. Among them are Devinder Sehrawat, Pankaj Pushkar and former ministers Sandeep Kumar and Asim Ahmed Khan, and Congress insiders claim that some of them are in talks with them, though none of these four rebel MLAs were available for comments despite repeated attempts.

When contacted, Seelampur MLA Mohd Ishraq conceded that he had met some local Congress leaders but only for “personal reasons”. “I am still with AAP and not joining anyone,

While Timarpur MLA Pushkar has not quit the party, he has been openly campaigning for Yogendra Yadav’s Swaraj Abhiyan which is in the fray this time. Sehrawat has been at odds with party chief Kejriwal since last year and was even suspended from the party’s primary leadership last year. Kumar, who was a social welfare minister in the Delhi cabinet, was suspended after a sex tape involving him emerged and Asim Ahmad Khan was sacked in October 2015 after his involvement in a bribery case. He was environment and food and supplies minister.

With civic polls around the corner, AAP has declared names of most candidates from the 272 municipal wards it had recently replaced 14 of those, whose names were declared earlier.

Following a buzz around Madanlal, its MLA from Kasturba Nagar quitting the party on Saturday, AAP had also paraded Madanlal claiming that he was very much with the party.

Meanwhile, the Congress is still considering allowing AAP MLAs to cross over. People familiar with the developments told ET that there is a concern in the Delhi unit of the Congress that such a major induction from AAP just ahead of MCD polls could upset its own party cadre.

Additionally, anti-incumbency against AAP is also being seen on ground and that could work against the Congress if it does indeed induct the AAP MLAs. However, the Congress could also benefit as its own internal surveys indicate that it will probably win no more than 40 seats in MCD. Also, at the same time, many AAP MLAs are also talking to the BJP which could further damage the Congress’ prospects.

After Ved Prakash’s switch to BJP, AAP had openly accused the party of resorting to ‘tod-phod ki rajneeti’. AAP has been alleging that the BJP is using all the tactics in the book to drive dissent and break the party ahead of the civic polls.