Gurgaon: Dissident AAP leaders Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav on Tuesday said they were not quitting the AAP and instead formed a non-political group named ‘Swaraj Abhiyan’ to tour the country and establish ‘swaraj’ (self-rule) in cultural, political, economic and social fields.
The two leaders had organized a day long national conference -- 'Swaraj Samwad' -- a dialogue on the present and future of alternative politics that was attended by over 4,000 volunteers, many of whom claimed to be associated with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
A section of AAP rebel leaders and prominent personalities - Admiral L. Ramdas (retd), who was recently removed as AAP's internal Lokpal and the AAP's Patiala MP Dharamvir Gandhi, who crticised their ouster - skipped the event.
Expelled from AAP’s national executive for their “anti-party” activities, Bhushan and Yadav - founding members of AAP said they were not ready to leave the party or form a new one - as was being speculated.
Reacting to Yadav and Bhushan’s meet, AAP leader Ashutosh said the party will take suitable action against the duo.
“We are closely watching their activities and the party's political affairs committee and national council will take suitable action," Ashutosh told reporters.
Addressing the gathering, including mediapersons, after the seven-hour long meet, Bhushan said: “We have heard that we have been expelled from the party. So, now we can’t even hold a dialogue freely? Were these the principles that the AAP aimed to follow?”
There was, however, no confirmation from the AAP to support Bhushan’s claim.
Bhushan claimed that the daylong event was a “major success”.
Yadav too clarified that the “dialogue was not a rebellion” and people who were attached to the “soul of the movement that gave birth to AAP” were still supporting them.
“To my understanding, nobody can stop us from meeting. The AAP constitution gives the volunteers the right. Swaraj Samwad cannot be anti-party," Yadav said.
Another AAP member, Anand Kumar, who attended the meet, denied any possibility of "breaking or leaving the party". Kumar later broke down on the dais.
"We will neither break the party nor leave it. We will improve it. We will not create a new party here," he said.
Yadav cited results of a poll conducted amongst the people gathered at the event and said almost 70 percent wanted them to remain in AAP and “fight to achieve swaraj within the party”.
“Results of volunteer voting: 25.45 percent say leave party (AAP) and form a new party; 69.69 percent said don't leave party,” he tweeted.
Bhushan lambasted AAP for ill-treating them, especially on March 28 when they were ousted from the party's national executive.
“I get angry whenever I think about the incident. We were thrown out from a party that we help build,” an emotional Bhushan said.
Meanwhile, the AAP had given clear instructions to all its leaders threatening to take strict action against anyone who attended the event.
Apart from Admiral Ramdas, Gandhi, others who skipped the meet were former party leader Christina Samy, and social activists Aruna Roy and Medha Patkar, among others.
According to sources, all the absentees either cited ill-health or prior personal commitments as the reason for not attending the event which has been described as an effort to break the AAP by those close to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
Admiral Ramdas in a recorded message said that he was “very upset” with what was happening within the party.
While Roy said in a message that AAP came out of a movement but now the party has diverted from principles.
Gandhi too criticized the party but stayed away from the event and so did senior journalist Kuldip Nayar, who targeted Kejriwal and his ministers in a message: “One must not forget that CM and ministers are only the representatives of public, they should not treat themselves as VIPs.”